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Relations Subsisting between the White 

and Colored People of the 

United States, 



1 1 





University of California Berkeley 

IN LOUISVILLE, KY., 1883.;* ., J ^ 

The following was delivered by FREDERICK' DOUGLASS as an 
address to the people of the United States atf^a fkHiiYe?i^k)n 
of Colored Men held in Louisville, Ky., September 24, 1883 : 

FELLOW-CITIZENS : Charged with the responsibility and duty 
of doing what we may to advance the interest and promote tlie 
general welfare of a people lately enslaved, and who, though 
now free, still suffer many of the disadvantages and evils 
derived from their former condition, not the least among which 
is the low and unjust estimate entertained of their abilities 
and possibilities as men, and their value as citizens of the Ke- 
public ; instructed by these people to make such representa- 
tions and adopt such measures as in our judgment may help 
to bring about a better understanding and a more friendly 
feeling between themselves and their white fellow-citizens] 
recognizing the great fact as we do, that the relations of the 
American people and those of civilized nations generally de- 
pend more upon prevailing ideas, opinions, and long estab- 
lished usages for their qualities of good and evil than upon 
courts of law or creeds of religion. Allowing the existence 
of a magnanimous disposition on your part to listen candidly 
to an honest appeal for fair play, coming from any class of 
your fellow-citizens, however humble, who may have, or may 
think they have, rights to assert or wrongs to redress, the 
members of this National Convention, chosen from all parts 
of the United States, representing the thoughts, feelings and 
purposes of colored men generally, would, as one means 
of advancing the cause committed to them, most respect- 
fully and earnestly ask your attention and favorable con- 
sideration to the matters contained in the present paper. 

At the outset we very cordially congratulate you upon the 
altered condition both of ourselves and our common country. 
Especially do we congratulate you upon the fact that a great 
reproach, which for two centuries rested on the good name 
of your country, has been blotted out ; that chattel slavery 
is no longer the burden of the colored man's complaint, and 
that we now come to rattle no chains, to clank no fetters, to 
paint no horrors of the old plantation to shock your sensi- 


bilities, to humble your pride, excite your pity, or to kindle 
your indignation. We rejoice also that one of the results of 
this stupendous revolution in our national history, the Repub- 
... lie which was before divided and weakened between two hos- 
ijle arid" irreconcilable interests, has become united and 
^ string ;, $hai from a low plain of life, which bordered upon 
! Vfe^bairismi itjhas risen to the possibility of the highest civil- 
ization ; that this change has started the American Republic 
on a new departure, full of promise, although it has also 
brought you and ourselves face to face with problems novel 
and difficult, destined to impose upon us responsibilities and 
duties, which, plainly enough, will tax our highest mental 
and moral ability for their happy solution. 

Born on American soil in common with yourselves, deriv- 
ing our bodies and our minds from its dust, centuries having 
passed away since our ancestors were torn from the shores of 
Africa, we, like yourselves, hold ourselves to be in every sense 
Americans, and that we may, therefore, venture to speak to 
you in a tone not lower than that which becomes earnest men 
and American citizens. Having watered your soil with our 
tears, enriched it with our blood, performed its roughest labor 
in time of peace, defended it against enemies in time of war, 
and at all times been loyal and true to its best interests, we 
deem it no arrogance or presumption to manifest now a com- 
mon concern with you for its welfare, prosperity, honor and 

If the claim thus set up by us be admitted, as we think it 
ought to be, it may be asked, what propriety or necessity can 
there be for the Convention, of which we are members ? and 
why are we now addressing you in some sense as suppliants 
asking for justice and fair play ? These questions are not new 
to us. From the day the call for this Convention went forth 
this seeming incongruity and contradiction has been brought 
to our attention. From one quarter or another, sometimes 
with argument and sometimes without argument, sometimes 
with seeming pity for our ignorance, and at other times with 
fierce censure for our depravity, these questions have met us. 
With apparent surprise, astonishment, and impatience, we 
have been asked : "What more can the colored people of 
this country want than they now have, and what more is pos- 
sible to them ?" It is said they were once slaves, they are 
now free ; they were once subjects, they are now sovereigns ; 
they w r ere once outside of all American institutions, they are 

now inside of all and are a recognized part of the whole 
American people. Why, then, do they hold Colored National 
Conventions and thus insist upon keeping up the color line 
between themselves and their white fellow-countrymen ? We 
do not deny the pertinence and plausibility of these ques- 
tions, nor do we shrink from a candid answer to the argument 
which they are supposed to contain. For we do not forget 
that they are not only put to us by those who have no sym- 
pathy with us, but by many who wish us well, and that in 
any case they deserve an answer. Before, however, we pro- 
ceed to answer them, we digress here to say that there is only 
one element associated with them which excites the least bit- 
terness of feeling in us, or that calls for special rebuke, and that 
is when they fall from the lips and pens of colored men who 
suffer with us and ought to know better. A few such men, 
well known to us and the country, happening to be more for- 
tunate in the possession of wealth, education, and position 
than their humbler brethren, have found it convenient to 
chime in with the popular cry against our assembling, on the 
ground that we have no valid reason for this measure or for 
any other separate from the whites ; that we ought to be sat- 
isfied with things as they are. With white men who thus object 
the case is different and less painful. For them there is a 
chance for charity. Educated as they are and have been for 
centuries, taught to look upon colored people as a lower 
order of humanity than themselves, and as having few rights, 
if any, above domestic animals, regarding them also through 
the medium of their beneficent religious creeds and just 
laws as if law and practice were identical some allow- 
ance can, and perhaps ought to, be made when they misap- 
prehend our real situation and deny our wants and assume a 
virtue they do not possess. But no such excuse or apology 
can be properly framed for men who are in any way identi- 
fied with us. What may be erroneous in others implies either 
baseness or imbecility in them. Such men, it seems to us, 
are either deficient in self-respect or too mean, servile and 
cowardly to assert the true dignity of their manhood and that 
of their race. To admit that there are such men among us is a 
disagreeable and humiliating confession. But in this respect, 
as in others, we are not without the consolation of company ; 
we are neither alone nor singular in the production of just 
such characters. All oppressed people have been thus af- 

It is one of the most conspicuous evils of caste and op- 
pression, that they inevitably tend to make cowards and ser- 
viles of their victims, men ever ready to bend the knee to pride 
and power that thrift may follow fawning, willing to betray 
the cause of the many to serve the ends of the few ; men who 
never hesitate to sell a friend when they think they can there- 
by purchase an enemy. Specimens of this sort may be found 
everywhere and at all times. There were Northern men with 
Southern principles in the time of slavery, and Tories in the 
revolution for independence. There are betrayers and in- 
formers to- day in Ireland, ready to kiss the hand that smites 
them and strike down the arm reached out to save them. Con- 
sidering our long subjection to servitude and caste, and the 
many temptations to which we are exposed to betray our 
race into the hands of their enemies, the wonder is not that 
we have so many traitors among us as that we have so few. 

The most of our people, to their honor be it said, are re- 
markably sound and true to each other. To those who think 
we have no cause to hold this convention, we freely admit 
that, so far as the organic law -of the land is concerned, we 
have indeed nothing to complain of, to ask or desire. There 
may be need of legislation, but the organic law is sound. 

Happily for us and for the honor of the Kepublic, the 
United States Constitution is just, liberal, and friendly. The 
amendments to that instrument, adopted in the trying times 
of reconstruction of the Southern States, are a credit to the 
courage and statesmanship of the leading men of that crisis. 
These amendments establish freedom and abolish all unfair 
and invidious discrimination against citizens on account of 
race and color, so far as law can do so. In their view, citi- 
zens are neither black nor white, and all are equals. With 
this admission and this merited reproof to trimmers and 
traitors, we again come to the question, Why are we here in 
this National Convention ? To this we answer, first, because 
there is a power in numbers and in union ; because the many 
are more than the few ; because the voice of a whole people, 
oppressed by a common injustice, is far more likely to com- 
- mand attention and exert an influence on the public mind 
than the voice of single individuals and isolated organizations ; 
because, coming together from all parts of the country, the 
members of a National convention have the means of a more 
comprehensive knowledge of the general situation, and may, 
therefore, fairly be presumed to conceive more clearly and ex- 

press more fully and wisely the policy it maybe necessary for 
them to pursue in the premises. Because conventions of 
the people are in themselves harmless, and when made 
the means of setting forth grievances, whether real or 
fancied, they are the safety-valves of the Eepublic, a wise 
and safe substitute for violence, dynamite, and all sorts 
of revolutionary action against the peace and good order 
of society. If they are held without sufficient reason, 
that fact will be made manifest in their proceedings, 
and people will only smile at their weakness and pass on to 
their usual business without troubling themselves about the 
empty noise they are able to make. But if held with good cause, 
and by wise, sober, and earnest men, that fact will be made 
apparent and the result will be salutary. That good old 
maxim, which has come down to us from revolutionary times, 
that error may be safely tolerated, while truth is left free to 
combat it, applies here. A bad law is all the sooner repealed 
by being executed, and error is sooner dispelled by exposure 
than by silence. So much we have deemed it fit to say of 
conventions generally, because our resort to this measure has 
been treated by many as if there were something radically 
wrong in the very idea of a convention. It has been treated 
as if it were some ghastly, secret conclave, sitting in darkness 
to devise strife and mischief. The fact is, the only serious 
feature in the argument against us is the one which respects 
color. We are asked not only why hold a convention, but/ 
with emphasis, why hold a colored convention ? Why keep up 
this odious distinction between citizens of a common country, 
and thus give countenance to the color line ? It is argued 
that, if colored men hold conventions, based upon color, 
white men may hold white conventions based upon color, 
and thus keep open the chasm between one and the other 
class of citizens, and keep alive a prejudice which we pro- 
fess to deplore. We state the argument against us fairly and 
forcibly, and will answer it candidly and we hope conclu- 
sively. By that answer it will be seen that the force of the 
objection is, after all, more in sound than in substance. No 
reasonable man will ever object to white men holding con- 
ventions in their own interests, when they are once in our 
condition and we in theirs, when they are the oppressed and 
we the oppressors. In point of fact, however, white men are 
already in convention against us in various ways and at 
many important points. The practical construction of A 


can life is a convention against us. Human law may know 
no distinction among men in respect of rights, but human 
practice may. Examples are painfully abundant. 

The border men hate the Indians ; the Calif ornian, the 
Chinaman ; the Mohammedan, the Christian, and vice versa. 
In spite of a common nature and the equality framed into 
law, this hate works injustice, of which each in their own 
name and under their own color may justly complain. The 
apology for observing the color line in the composition of 
our State and National conventions is in its necessity and in 
the fact that we must do this or nothing, for if we move our 
color is recognized and must be. It has its foundation in 
the exceptional relation we sustain to the white people of the 
country. A simple statement of our position vindicates at 
once our convention and our cause. 

It is our lot to live among a people whose laws, traditions, 
and prejudices have been against us for centuries, and from 
these they are not yet free. To assume that they are free 
from these evils simply because they have changed their laws 
is to assume what is utterly unreasonable and contrary to 
facts. Large bodies move slowly. Individuals may be con- 
verted on the instant and change their whole course of life. 
Nations never. Time and events are required for the conver- 
sion of nations. Not even the character of a great political or- 
ganization can be changed by a new platform. It will be the 
same old snake though in a new skin. Though we have had war, 
reconstruction and abolition as a nation, we still linger in the 
shadow and blight of an extinct institution. Though the 
colored man is no longer subject to be bought and sold, he 
s still surrounded by an adverse sentiment which fetters 
all his movements. In his downward course he meets with 
no resistance, but his course upward is resented and resisted 
at every step of his progress. If he comes in ignorance, 
rags, and wretchedness, he conforms to the popular belief 
of his character, and in that character he is welcome. But 
if he shall come as a gentleman, a scholar, and a statesman, 
he is hailed as a contradiction to the national faith concern- 
ing his race, and his coming is resented as impudence. In 
the one case he may provoke contempt and derision, but in 
the other he is an affront to pride, and provokes malice. Le.t 
him do what he will, there is at present, therefore, no escape 
for him. The color line meets him everywhere, and in a 
measure shuts him out from all respectable and profitable 

trades and callings. In spite of all your religion and laws 
he is a rejected man. 

He is rejected by trade unions, of every trade, and refused 
work while he lives, and burial when he dies, and yet he is 
asked to forget his color, and forget that which everybody 
else remembers. If he offers himself to a builder as a me- 
chanic, to a client as a lawyer, to a patient as a physician, to 
a college as a professor, to a 'firm as a clerk, to a Govern- 
ment Department as an agent, or an officer, he is sternly met 
on the color line, and his claim to consideration in some way 
is disputed on the ground of color. 

Not even our churches, whose members profess to fol- 
low the despised Nazarene, whose home, when on earth, 
was among the lowly and despised, have yet conquered this 
feeling of color madness, and what is true of our churches is 
also true of our courts of law. Neither is free from this all- 
pervading atmosphere of color hate. The one describes the 
Deity as impartial, no respecter of persons, and the other the 
Goddess of Justice as blindfolded, with sword by her side 
and scales in her hand held evenly between high and low, 
rich and poor, white and black, but both are the images of 
American imagination, rather than American practices. 

Taking advantage of the general disposition in this coun- 
try to impute crime to color, white men color their faces to 
commit crime and wash off the hated color to escape punish- 
ment. In many places where the commission of crime is al- 
leged against one of our color, the ordinary processes of the 
law are set aside as too slow for the impetuous justice of the 
infuriated populace. They take the law into their own bloody 
hands and proceed to whip, stab, shoot, hang, or burn the al- 
leged culprit, without the intervention of courts, counsel, 
judges, juries, or witnesses. In such cases it is not the busi- 
ness of the accusers to prove guilt, but it is for the accused 
to prove his innocence, a thing hard for any man to do,. even 
in a court of law, and utterly impossible for him to do in these 
infernal Lynch courts. A man accused, surprised, frightened 
and captured by a motley crowd, dragged with a rope about 
his neck in midnight-darkness to the nearest tree, and told in 
the coarsest terms of profanity to prepare for death, would 
be more than human if he did not, in his terror-stricken ap- 
pearance, morb confirm suspicion of guilt than the contrary. 
Worse still, in the presence of such hell-black outrages, the 
pulpit is usually dumb, and the press in the neighborhood is 


silent or openly takes side with the mob. There are 
occasional cases in which white men are lynched, but one 
sparrow does not make a summer. Every one knows that 
what is called Lynch law is peculiarly the law for colored 
people and for nobody else. If there were no other griev- 
ance than this horrible and barbarous Lynch law custom, 
we should be justified in assembling, as we have now 
done, to expose and denounce it. But this is not all. 
Even now, after twenty years of so-called emancipation, 
we are subject to lawless raids of midnight riders, 
who, with blackened faces, invade our homes and perpetrate 
the foulest of crimes upon us and our families. This con- 
dition of things is too flagrajut and notorious to require 
specifications or proof. Thusjin all the relations of life and 
death we are met by the color line. We cannot ignore it if 
we would, and ought not if we could. It hunts us at mid- 
night, it denies us accommodation in hotels and justice in 
the courts ; excludes our children from schools, refuses our 
sons the chance to learn trades, and compels us to pursue 
only such labor as will bring the least reward. While we rec- 
ognize the color line as a hurtful force, a mountain barrier to 
our progress, wounding our bleeding feet with its flinty rocks 
at every step, we do not despair. We are a hopeful people. 
This convention is a proof of our faith in you, in reason, in 
truth and justice our belief that prejudice, with all its ma- 
lign accompaniments, may yet be removed by peaceful means ; 
that, assisted by time and events and 'the growing enlighten- 
ment of both races, the color line will ultimately become 
harmless. When this shall come it will then only be used, as 
it should be, to distinguish one variety of the human family 
from another. It will cease to have any civil, political, or 
moral significance, and colored conventions will then be dis- 
pensed with as anachronisms, wholly out of place, but not 
till then. Do not marvel that we are not discouraged. The 
faith within us has a rational basis, and is confirmed by facts. 
When we consider how deep-seated this feeling against us is ; 
the long centuries it has been forming ; the forces of avarice 
which have been marshaled to sustain it ; how the language 
and literature of the country have been pervaded with it ; 
how the church, the press, the play-house, and other influ- 
ences of the country have been arrayed in its support, the 
.progress toward its extinction must be considered vast and 


If liberty, with us, is yet but a name, our citizenship is 
but a sham, and our suffrage thus far only a cruel mockery, 
we may yet congratulate ourselves upon the fact that the 
laws and institutions of the country are sound, just and lib- 
eral. There is hope for a people when their laws are righteous 
whether for the moment they conform to their requirements 
or not. But until this nation shall make its practice accord 
with its Constitution and its righteous laws, it will not do to 
reproach the colored people of this country with keeping up 
the color line for that people would prove themselves scarcely 
worthy of even theoretical freedom, to say nothing of practical 
freedom, if they settled down in silent, servile and cowardly 
submission to their wrongs, from fear of making their color 
visible. They are bound by every element of manhood to 
hold conventions in their own name and on their own behalf, 
to keep their grievances before the people and make every 
organized protest against the wrongs inflicted upon them 
within their power. They should scorn the counsels of cow- 
ards, and hang their banner on the outer wall. Who would 
be free, themselves must strike the blow. "We do not believe, 
as we are often told, that the negro is the ugly child of 
the national family, and the more he is kept out of sight 
the better it will be for him. You know that liberty given is 
never so precious as liberty sought for and fought for. The 
man outraged is the man to make the outcry. Depend upon 
it, men will not care much for a people who do not care for 
themselves. Our meeting here was opposed by some of our 
members, because it would disturb the peace of the Kepub- 
lican party. The suggestion came from coward lips and mis- 
apprehended the character of that party. If the Republican 
party cannot stand a demand for justice and fair play, it 
ought to go down. We were men before that party was born, 
and our manhood is more sacred than any party can be. 
Parties were made for men, not men for parties. 

If the six millions of colored people of this country, 
armed with the Constitution of the United States, with a 
million votes of their own to lean upon, and millions of 
white men at their back, whose hearts are responsive to the 
claims of humanity, have not sufficient spirit and wisdom to 
organize and combine to defend themselves from outrage, 
discrimination, and oppression, it will be idle for them to ex- 
pect that the Republican party or any other political party 
will organize and combine for them or care what becomes of 


them. Men may combine to prevent cruelty to animals, for 
they are dumb and cannot speak for themselves ; but we are 
men and must speak for ourselves, or we shall not be spoken 
for at all. We have conventions in America for Ireland, but 
we should have none if Ireland did not speak for herself. It 
is because she makes a noise and keeps her cause before the 
people that other people go to her help. It was the sword 
of Washington and of Lafayette that gave us Independence. 
In conclusion upon this color objection, we have to say that 
we meet here in open daylight. There is nothing sinister 
about us. The eyes of the nation are upon us. Ten thou- 
sand newspapers may tell if they choose of whatever is said 
and done here. They may commend our wisdom or condemn 
our folly, precisely as we shall be wise or foolish. 

We put ourselves before them as honest men, and ask their 
judgment upon our work. 


Not the least important among the subjects to which we 
invite your earnest attention is the condition of the labor 
class at the South. Their cause is one with the labor 
classes all over the world. The labor unions of the country 
should not throw away this colored element of strength. 
Everywhere there is dissatisfaction with the present relation 
of labor and capital, and to-day no subject wears an aspect 
more threatening to civilization than the respective claims of 
capital and labor, landlords and tenants. In what we have 
to say for our laboring class we expect to have and ought to 
have the sympathy and support of laboring men everywhere 
and of every color. 

It is a great mistake for any class of laborers to isolate it- 
self and thus weaken the bond of brotherhood between those 
on whom the burden and hardships of labor fall. The for- 
tunate ones of the earth, who are abundant in land and money 
and know nothing of the anxious care and pinching poverty 
of the laboring classes, may be indifferent to the appeal for 
justice at this point, but the laboring classes cannot afford to be 
indifferent. What labor everywhere wants, what it ought to 
have, and will some day demand and receive, is an honest 
day's pay for an honest day's work. As the laborer becomes 
more intelligent he will develop what capital he already pos- 
sesses that is the power to organize and combine for its own 
protection. Experience demonstrates that there may be a 


wages of slavery only a little less galling and crushing in its 
effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages 
must go down with the other. 

There is nothing more common now than the remark that 
the physical condition of the freedmen of the South is im- 
measurably worse than in the time of slavery ; that in respect 
to food, clothing and shelter they are wretched, miserable 
and destitute ; that they are worse masters to themselves 
than their old masters were to them. To add insult to injury, 
the reproach of their condition is charged upon themselves. 
A grandson of John C. Calhoun, an Arkansas land-owner, 
testifying the other day before the Senate Committee of La- 
bor and Education, says the " negroes are so indolent that 
they fail to take advantage of the opportunities offered them ; 
that they will only devote so much of their time to work as 
will enable them to procure the necessities of life ; that there 
is danger of a war of races," etc., etc. 

His testimony proclaims him the grandson of the man 
whose name he bears. The blame which belongs to his own 
class he shifts from them to the shoulders of labor. It be- 
comes us to test the truth of that assertion by the light of 
reason, and by appeals to indisputable facts. Of course the 
land-owners of the South may be expected to view things 
differently from the landless. The slaveholders always did 
look at things a little differently from the slaves, and we 
therefore insist that, in order that the whole truth shall be 
brought out, the laborer as well as the capitalist shall be 
called as witnesses before the Senate Committee of Labor 
and Education. Experience proves that it takes more than 
one class of people to tell the whole truth about matters in 
Avhich they are interested on opposite sides, and we protest 
against the allowance of only one side of the labor question 
to be heard by the country in this case. Meanwhile, a little 
reason and reflection will in some measure bring out truth ! 
The colored people of the South are the laboring people of 
the South. ^The labor of a country is the source of its wealth ; 
without the colored laborer to-day the South would be a 
howling wilderness, given up to bats, owls, wolves, and bears. 
He was the source of its wealth before the war, and has been 
the source of its prosperity since the war. He almost alone 
is visible in her fields, with implements of toil in his hands, 
and laboriously using them to-day. 

Let us look candidly at the matter. While we see and hear 


that the South is more prosperous than it ever was before and 
rapidly recovering from the waste of war, while we read that 
it raises more cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, corn, and other val- 
uable products than it ever produced before, how happens it, 
we sternly ask, that the houses of its laborers are miserable 
huts, that their clothes are rags, and their food the coarsest 
and scantiest ? How happens it that the land-owner is be- 
coming richer and the laborer poorer ? 

The implication is irresistible that where the landlord is 
prosperous the laborer ought to share his prosperity, and 
whenever and wherever we find this is not the case there is 
manifestly wrong somewhere. 

This sharp contrast of wealth and poverty, as every 
thoughtful man knows, can exist only in one way, and from 
one cause, and that is by one getting more than its proper 
share of the reward of industry, and the other side getting 
less, and that in some way labor has been defrauded or other- 
\/\ wise denied of its due proportion, and we think the facts, as 
u well as this philosophy, will support this view in the present 
case, and do so conclusively. We utterly deny that the col- 
ored people of the South are too lazy to work, or that they 
are indifferent to their physical wants ; as already said, they 
are the workers of that section. 

The trouble is not that the colored people of the South 
are indolent, but that no matter how' hard or how persistent 
may be their industry, they get barely enough for their labor 
to support life at the very low point at which we find them. 
We therefore throw off the burden of disgrace and reproach 
from the laborer where Mr. Calhoun and others of his class 
would place it, and put it on the land-owner where it belongs. 
It is the old case over again. The black man does the work 
and the white man gets the money. 

It may be said after all the colored people have themselves 
to blame for this state of things, because they have not intel- 
ligently taken the matter into their own hands and provided 
a remedy for the evil they suffer. 

Some blame may attach at this point. But those who re- 
proach us thus should remember that it is hard for labor, 
however fortunately and favorably surrounded, to cope with 
the tremendous power of capital in any contest for higher 
wages or improved condition. A strike for higher wages is 
seldom successful, and is often injurious to the strikers ; the 
losses sustained are seldom compensated by the concessions 


gained. A case in point is the recent strike of the telegraph 
operators a more intelligent class can nowhere be found. 
It was a contest of brains against money, and the want of 
money compelled intelligence to surrender to wealth. 

An empty sack is not easily made to stand upright. The 
man who has it in his power to say to a man, you must work 
the land for me for such wages as I choose to give, has a 
power of slavery over him as real, if not as complete, as he 
who compels toil under the lash. All that a man hath will 
he give for his life. 

In contemplating the little progress made by the colored 
people in the acquisition of property in the South, and their 
present wretched condition, the circumstances of their eman- 
cipation should not be forgotten. Measurement in their case 
should not begin from the height yet to be attained by them, 
but from the depths whence they have come. 

It should be remembered by our severe judges that free- 
dom came to us not from the sober dictates of wisdom, or 
from any normal condition of things, not as a matter of choice 
on the part of the land-owners of the South, nor from moral 
considerations on the part of the North. It was born of 
battle and of blood. It came across fields of smoke and fire 
strewn with wounded, bleeding, and dying men. Not from 
the Heaven of Peace amid the morning stars, but from 
the hell of war out of the tempest and whirlwind of warlike 
passions, mingled with deadly hate and a spirit of revenge ; 
it came, not so much as a boon to us as a blast to the enemy. 
Those against whom the measure was directed were the land- 
owners, and they were not angels, but men, and, being men, 
it was to be expected they would resent the blow. They did 
resent it, and a part of that resentment unhappily fell upon us. 

At first the land- owners drove us out of our old quarters, 
and told us they did not want us in their fields ; that they 
meant to import German, Irish, and Chinese laborers. But 
as the passions of the war gradually subsided we were taken 
back to our old places ; but, plainly enough, this change of 
front was not from choice, but necessity. Feeling themselves 
somehow or other entitled to our labor without the payment 
of wages, it was not strange that they should make the hard- 
est bargains for our labor, and get it for as little as possible. 
For them the contest was easy , their tremendous power and 
our weakness easily gave them the victory. 

Against the voice of Stevens, Sumner, and Wade, and other 


farseeing statesmen, the Government by whom we were eman- 
cipated left us completely in the power of our former owners. 
They turned us loose to the open sky and left us not a foot of 
ground from which to get a crust of bread. 

It did not do as well by us as Kussia did by her serfs, or 
Pharaoh did by the Hebrews. With freedom Kussia gave 
land and Egypt loaned jewels. 

It may have been best to leave us thus to make terms with 
those whose wrath it had kindled against us. It does not seem 
right that we should have been so left, but it fully explains our 
present poverty and wretchedness. 

The marvel is not that we are poor in such circumstances, 
but rather that we were not exterminated. In view of the cir- 
cumstances, our extermination was confidently predicted. ,The 
facts that we still live and have increased in higher ratio than 
the native white people of the South are proofs of our vital- 
ity, and, in some degree, of our industry. 

. r- Nor is it to be wondered at that the standard of morals is 
not higher among us, that respect for the rights of property 
is not stronger. The power of life and death held over labor 
which says you shall work for me on my own terms or starve, 
is a source of crime, as well as poverty. 

Weeds do not more naturally spring out of a manure pile 
than crime 'out of enforced destitution. Out of the misery 
of Ireland comes murder, assassination, fire, and sword. The 
Irish are by nature no worse than other people, and no bet- 
ter. If oppression makes a wise man mad it may do the same, 
and worse, to a people who are not reputed wise. The woe 
pronounced upon those who keep back wages of the laborer 
by fraud is self-acting and self-executing and certain as death. 
The world is full of warnings. 


No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the 
southern laborers could be adopted than the one that sub- 
stitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of 
wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts 
the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and 
the shopkeeper. He is between the upper and the nether 
millstones, and is hence ground to dust. It gives the shop- 
keeper a customer who can trade with no other storekeeper, 
and thus leaves the latter no motive for fair dealing except 
his own moral sense, which is never too strong. While the 

17 . 


laborer holding the orders is tempted by their worthlessness, 
as a circulating medium, to get rid of them at any sacrifice, 
and hence is led into extravagance and consequent destitu- 

The* merchant puts him off with his poorest commodities 
at highest prices, and can say to him take these or nothing. 
Worse still. By this means the laborer is brought into debt, 
and hence is kept always in the power of the land-owner. 
When this system is not pursued and land is rented to the 
freedman, he is charged more for the use of an acre of land 
for a single year than the land would bring in the market if 
offered for sale. On such a system of fraud and wrong one 
might well invoke a bolt from heaven red with uncommon 

It is said if the colored people do not like the conditions 
upon which their labor is demanded and secured, let them 
leave and go elsewhere. A more heartless suggestion never 
emanated from an oppressor. Having for years paid them in 
shop orders, utterly worthless outside the shop to which they 
are directed, without a dollar in their pockets, brought by 
this crafty process into bondage to the land-owners, who can 
and would arrest them if they should attempt to leave when 
they are told to go. 

We commend the whole subject to the Senate Committee 
of Labor and Education, and urge upon that committee the 
duty to call before it not only the land-owners, but the land- 
less laborers of the South, and thus get at the whole truth 
concerning the labor question of that section. 


On the subject of equal education and educational facili- 
ties, mentioned in the call for this convention, we expect lit- 
tle resistance from any quarter. It is everywhere an accepted 
truth, that in a country governed by the people, like ours, edu- 
cation of the youth of all classes is vital to its welfare, pros- 
perity, and to its existence. 

In the light of this unquestioned proposition, the patriot 
cannot but view with a shudder the widespread and truly 
alarming illiteracy as revealed by the census of 1880. 

The question as to how this evil is to be remedied is an im- 
portant one. Certain it is that it will not do to trust to the phil- 
anthropy of wealthy individuals or benevolent societies to re- 
move it. The States in which this illiteracy prevails either 


can not or will not provide adequate systems of education 
for their own youth. But, however this may be, the fact re- 
mains that the whole country is directly interested in the 
education of every child that lives within its borders. The 
ignorance of any part of , the American people so deeply con- 
cerns all the rest that there can be no doubt of the right to 
pass laws compelling the attendance of every child at school. 
Believing that such is now required and ought to be enacted, 
we hereby put ourselves on record in favor of stringent laws 
to this end. 

In the presence of this appalling picture, presented by the 
last census, we hold it to be the imperative duty of Congress 
to take hold of this important subject, and, without waiting 
for the States to adopt liberal school systems within their 
respective jurisdictions, to enter vigorously upon the work of 
universal education. 

The National Government, with its immense resources, can 
carry the benefits of a sound common-school education to 
the door of every poor man from Maine to Texas, and to with- 
hold this boon is to neglect the greatest assurance it has of 
its own perpetuity. As a part of the American people we 
unite most emphatically with others who have already 
spoken on this subject, in urging Congress to lay the foun- 
dation of a great national system of aid to education at its 
next session. 

In this connection, and as germane to the subject of edu- 
cation under national auspices, we would most respectfully 
and earnestly request Congress to authorize the appointment 
of a commission of three or more persons of suitable char- 
acter and qualifications to ascertain the legal claimants, as 
far as they can, to a large fund now in the United States 
treasury, appropriated for the payment of bounties of col- 
ored soldiers and sailors ; and to provide by law that at the 
expiration of three or five years the balance remaining in the 
treasury be distributed among the colored colleges of the 
country, giving the preference as to amounts to the schools 
that are doing effective work in industrial branches. 


The colored people have suffered much on account of the 
failure of the Freedman's bank. Their loss by this institu- 
tion was a peculiar hardship, qoming as it did upon them in 
the days of their greatest weakness. It is certain that the 


depositors in this institution were led to believe that as Con- 
gress had chartered it and established its headquarters at the 
capital the Government in some way was responsible for the 
safe keeping of their money. 

Without the dissemination of this belief it would never 
have had the confidence of the people as it did nor have 
secured such an immense deposit. Nobody authorized to 
speak for the Government ever corrected this deception, but 
on the contrary, Congress continued to legislate for the bank 
as if all that had been claimed for it was true. 

Under these circumstances, together with much more that 
might be said in favor of such a measure, we ask Congress 
to reimburse the unfortunate victims of that institution, and 
thus carry hope and give to many fresh encouragement in the 
battle of life. 


We desire, also, to call the attention of Congress and the 
country to the bounty and pension laws and to the filing of 
original claims. We ask for the passage of an act extending 
the time for filing original claims beyond the present limit. 

This we do for the reason that many of the soldiers and 
sailors that served in the war of the rebellion and their heirs, 
and especially colored claimants living in parts of the country 
where they have but meagre means of information, have been, 
and still are, ignorant of their rights and the methods of 
enforcing them. 

But while we urge these duties on Congress and the coun- 
try, we must never forget that any race worth living will live, 
and whether Congress heeds our request in these and other 

Particulars or not, we must demonstrate our capacity to live 
y living. We must acquire property and educate the hands 
and hearts and heads of our children whether we are helped 
or not. Races that fail to do these things die politically and 
socially, and are only fit to die. 

One great source of independence that has been sought 
by multitudes of our white fellow-citizens is still open to us 
we refer to the public lands in the great West. The amazing 
rapidity with which the public lands are being taken up warns 
us that we must lay hold of this opportunity soon, or it will 
be gone forever. The Government gives to every actual settler, 
under certain conditions, 160 acres of land. By addressing 
a letter to the United States Land Office, Washington, D. 


C., any person will receive full information in regard to this 
subject. Thousands of white men have settled on these 
lands with scarcely any money beyond their immediate wants, 
and in a few years have found themselves the lords of a 160 
acre farm. Let us do likewise. 


The right of every American citizen to select his own 
society and invite whom he will to his own parlor and table 
should be sacredly respected. A man's house is his castle, 
and he has a right to admit or refuse admission to it as he 
may please, and defend his house from all intruders even 
with force, if need be. This right belongs to the humblest 
not less than the highest, and the exercise of it by any of 
our citizens toward anybody or class who may presume to 
intrude, should cause no complaint, for each and all may ex- 
ercise the same right toward whom he will. 
"When he quits his home and goes upon the public street, 
enters a public car or a public house, he has no exclusive right 
of occupancy. He is only a part of the great public, and 
while he has the right to walk, ride, and be accommodated 
with food and shelter in a public conveyance or hotel, he 
has no exclusive right to say that another citizen, tall or 
short, black or white, shall not have the same civil treatment 
with himself. The argument against equal rights at hotels is 
very improperly put upon the ground that the exercise of such 
rights, it is insisted, is social equality. But this ground is un- 
reasonable. It is hard to say what social equality is, but it 
is certain that going into the same street car, hotel, or steam- 
boat cabin does not make any man society for another any 
more than flying in the same air makes all birds of one feather. 

Two men may be seated at the same table at a hotel ; one 
may be a Webster in intellect, and the other a Guiteau in fee- 
bleness of mind and morals, and, of course, socially and intel- 
lectually, they are as wide apart as are the poles of the moral 
universe, but their civil rights are the same. The distinction 
between the two sorts of equality is broad and plain to the 
understanding of the most limited, and yet, blinded by preju- 
dice, men never cease to confound one with the other, and 
allow themselves to infringe the civil rights of their fellow- 
citizens as if those rights were, in some way, in violation of 
their social rights. 

That this denial of rights to us is because of our color, only 


as color is a badge of condition, is manifest in the fact that no 
matter how decently dressed or well-behaved a colored man 
may be, he is denied civil treatment in the ways thus pointed 
out, unless he comes as a servant. His color, not his char- 
acter, determines the place he shall hold and the kind of 
treatment he shall receive. That this is due to a prejudice 
and has no rational principle under it is seen in the fact that 
the presence of colored persons in hotels and rail cars is 
only offensive when they are there as guests and passengers. 
As servants they are welcome, but as equal citizens they are v , 
not. It is also seen in the further fact that nowhere 
else on the globe, except in the United States, are colored 
people subject to insult and outrage on account of color. 
The colored traveler in Europe does not meet it, and we de- 
nounce it here as a disgrace to American civilization and' 
American religion and as a violation of the spirit and letter 
of the Constitution of the United States. From those courts 
which have solemnly sworn to support the Constitution and that 
yet treat this provision of it with contempt we appeal to the 
people, and call upon our friends to remember our civil 
rights at the ballot-box. On the point of the two equalities 
we are determined to be understood. 

We leave social equality where it should be left, with each 
individual man and woman. No law can regulate or control 
it. It is a matter with which governments have nothing what- 
ever to do. Each may choose his own friends and associates 
without interference or dictation of any. 


Flagrant as have been the outrages committed upon col- 
ored citizens in respect to their civil rights, more flagrant, 
shocking, and scandalous still have been the outrages com- 
mitted upon our political rights by means of bull-dozing and 
Kukluxing, Mississippi plans, fraudulent counts, tissue bal- 
lots, and the like devices. Three States in which the colored ' 
people outnumber the white population are without colored \ 
representation and their political voice suppressed. The col- \ 
ored citizens in those States are virtually disfranchised, the 
Constitution held in utter contempt and its provisions nulli- 
fied. This has been done in the face of the Kepublican 
party and successive Republican administrations. 

It was once said by the great O'Connell that the history of 
Ireland might be traced like a wounded man through a crowd 

by the blood, and the same may be truly said of the history 
of the colored voters of the South. 

They have marched to the ballot-box in face of gleaming 
weapons, wounds, and death. They have been abandoned 
by the Government, and left to the laws of nature. So far 
as they are concerned, there is no Government or Constitu- 
tion of the United States. 

They are under control of a foul, haggard, and damning 
conspiracy against reason, law, and constitution. How you 
can be indifferent, how any leading colored men can allow 
themselves to be silent in presence of this state of things, we 
cannot see. 

" Should tongues be mute while deeds are wrought which 
well might shame extremest hell ? " And yet they are mute, 
and condemn our assembling here to speak out in manly 
tones against the continuance of this infernal reign of terror. 

This is no question of party. It is a question of law and 
government. It is a question whether men shall be protected 
by law, or be left to the mercy of cyclones of anarchy and 
bloodshed. It is whether the Government or the mob shall 
rule this land ; whether the promises solemnly made to us in 
the Constitution be manfully kept or meanly and flagrantly 
broken. Upon this vital point we ask the whole people of 
the United States to take notice that whatever of political 
power we have shall be exerted for no man of any party who 
will not, in advance of election, promise to use every power 
given him by the Government, State or National, to make the 
black man's path to the ballot-box as straight, smooth and 
safe as that of any other American citizen. 


We are as a people often reproached with ambition for 
political offices and honors. We are not ashamed of this al- 
leged ambition. Our destitution of such ambition would be 
our real shame. If the six millions and a half of people 
whom we represent could develop no aspirants to political 
office and honor under this Government, their mental indif- 
ference, barrenness and stolidity might well enough be taken 
as proof of their unfitness for American citizenship. 

It is no crime to seek or hold office. If it were it would 
take a larger space than that of Noah's Ark to hold the white 

One of the charges against this convention is that it seeks 


for the colored people a larger share than they now possess 
in the offices and emoluments of the Government. 

We are now significantly reminded by even one of our own . 
members that we are only twenty years out of slavery, and 
we ought therefore to be modest in our aspirations. Such 
leaders should remember that men will not be religious when 
the devil turns preacher. 

The inveterate and persistent office-seeker and office-holder 
should be modest when he preaches that virtue to others 
which he does not himself practice. Wolsey could not tell 
Cromwell to fling away ambition properly only when he had 
flung away his own. 

We are far from affirming that there may not be too much 
zeal among colored men in pursuit of political preferment ; 
but the fault is not wholly theirs. They have young men 
among them noble and true, who are educated and intel- 
ligent fit to engage in enterprise of " pith and moment "- 
who find themselves shut out from nearly all the avenues of 
wealth and respectability, and hence they turn their attention 
to politics. They do so because they can find nothing else. 
The best cure for the evil is to throw open other avenues and 
activities to them. 

We shall never cease to be a despised and persecuted class 
while we are known to be excluded by our color from all im- 
portant positions under the Government. 

While we do not make office the one thing important, nor 
the one condition of our alliance with any party, and hold 
that the welfare, prosperity and happiness of our whole coun- 
try is the true criterion of political action for ourselves and 
for all men, we can not disguise from ourselves the fact that 
our persistent exclusion from office as a class is* a great wrong, 
fraught with injury, and ought to be resented and opposed 
by all reasonable and effective means in our power. 

We hold it to be self-evident that no class or color should 
be the exclusive rulers of this country. If there is such a 
ruling class, there must of course be a subject class, and when 
this condition is once established this Government of the peo- 
ple, by the people, and for the people, will have perished from 
the earth. 

IN WASHINGTON, D. C., 1885. 

On being introduced by Hon. B. K. BRUCE, on the occasion 
of the twenty -third anniversary of the abolition of slavery in 
the District of Columbia, FREDERICK DOUGLASS spoke as fol- 
lows : 

FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS : Your committee of arrange- 
ments were pleased to select me as your orator of the day, on 
an occasion similar to this, two years ago At that time, 
while appreciating the honor conferred upon me, I ventured 
to express the wish that some one of the many competent 
colored young men of this city and District had been chosen 
to discharge this honorable duty in my stead. There were 
excellent reasons for that wish then, and there are even much 
better reasons for the same wish now. Time and cultivation 
have largely added to the number of those from whom a suit- 
able selection might have been made, and one of these silent, 
yet powerful, agents whose mission it is to create and destroy 
all things mortal has left me much less desire for such dis- 
tinguished service now than two years ago. Happily, how- 
ever, the burden is not heavy or grievous, and the proper 
story of this occasion is simple, familiar, and easily told. In 
observing the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the 
District of Columbia, we attract the attention of the Ameri- 
can people to one of the most important and significant events 
in their national history, and at the same time evince a grate- 
ful and proper sense of the wonderful changes for the better 
that have taken place in our condition, and in that of the 
country generally. Though in its immediate and legal oper- 
ation this act of emancipation was local in its range as to 
territory, and limited in its application as to the number of 
persons liberated by it, morally it looms upon us as a grand, 
comprehensive, and far-reaching measure. 

To appreciate its importance we must not consider it as a 
single independent act standing alone, nor as one pertaining 
to this District only, nor to the colored people only. We 
must regard it as a part of a series of splendid public meas- 
ures, as one of so many steps in the national progress looking 
to one beneficent and glorious result, a large contribution to the 


honor and welfare of the whole country. It was the auspi- 
cious beginning of a great movement in the councils of the na- 
tion, made necessary by the war, and one which finally cul- 
minated in the complete and permanent abolition of slavery, 
not only in the District of Columbia, but in every part of the 
Republic. Thus viewed it was the one act which broke the 
gloomy spell that bound the nation in the bonds of servile, 
unnatural reverence and awe for slavery. It withdrew the 
sympathy of European nations from the rebellion ; it brought 
the moral support of the civilized world to the loyal cause ; 
it erased the foulest blot that ever stained our national escut- 
cheon ; it gave to the war for the Union a logical, humane, 
and consistent purpose ; it solved a problem which was the 
standing grief of good men, and the perplexity of statesmen 
for ages ; it gave courage and hope to our armies in the field ; 
it weakened the rebellion ; it raised the whole nation to a 
higher and happier plane of civilization, and placed the 
American people where they never were before, in a position 
where they could consistently and effectively preach liberty 
to all the nations of the world. 

The 16th of April, the anniversary of this great act of 
the nation, strangely and erroneously enough has been con- 
sidered simply as the colored man's day only. The business 
of consecrating and preserving its memory has been, by com- 
mon consent, relegated to him exclusively. But, in this, our 
fellow-citizens have been more generous to us than just to 
themselves. Colored men have very little more reason to 
hallow this day than have white men. If it brought freedom 
to us, it brought peace and safety to them, and hence they 
may well enough unite in this and similar celebrations, and 
regard the day as theirs as well as ours. No truth taught by 
our national history is more evident than this, that while 
slavery dominated the southern half of the Eepublic, and free 
institutions prevailed in the northern half, peace and har- 
mony between the two sections were utterly and forever im- 
possible. No man can serve two masters, and the attempt 
of our Government to do this was a stupendous failure. The 
union between liberty and slavery was a marriage without 
love, a house divided against itself ; a couple unequally yoked 
together, held together by external force, not by moral cohe- 
sion ; it brought happiness to neither, and misery to both. 

Like any other embodiment of social and material interest 
peculiar to a given community, slavery generated its own 


sentiments, its own morals, manners, and religion ; and begot 
a character in all around it in favor of its own existence. 

In nearly everything indigenous and peculiar to society in 
the two sections, they were as separate and distinct as are 
any two nations on the globe. The longer they were thus 
linked together in the bonds of outward union, the more 
palpable became their points of difference, and the more pas- 
sionate became their hostility to each other. Liberty became 
more and more the glory of the North, and slavery more and 
more the idol of the South. Not even the bonds of Chris- 
tian fellowship were strong enough to hold together the 
churches of the two sections. 

In view of this settled and growing antagonism, only one 
of three courses was opened to the nation : The first was to 
make the country all slaves, the second was to make it all 
free, and the third was to divide the Union, and let each 
section set up a government of its own the one based upon 
the system of slavery, and the other based upon the princi- 
ples of the Declaration of American Independence. 

Thanks to the wisdom, loyalty, patriotism, courage, and 
statesmanship developed by the crisis, the nation rejected 
equally the idea of making the country all slaves, and permit- 
ting two separate nations, with hostile civilizations, side by 
side, with a chafing, bloody border between them, but chose 
to give us one country, one citizenship, and one liberty for 
all the people, and hence we are here this evening. There 
was never any physical reason for the dissolution of the 
Union. The geographical and topographical conditions of 
the country all served to unite rather than to divide the two 
sections. It was moral not physical dynamite that blew the 
two sections asunder. 

We are told by the poet that 

" Lands intersected by a narrow frith, abhor each other ; 
Mountains interposed make enemies of nations, 
Which else, like kindred drops, had mingled into one." 

But in this case there were neither friths nor mountains to 
separate the South from the North, or to make our Southern 
brethren hate the people of the North. The moral cause of 
trouble in the system of slavery being now removed, peace 
and harmony are possible, and, I doubt not, these blessings, 
though long delayed, will finally come. In calling attention 
to the event which makes this day precious we honor our- 


selves, and honor the noble and brave men who brought it 
about. We render our humble tribute of gratitude to-day, 
not only to those whose valor and whose blood on the battle- 
field brought freedom to the American slave ; not only to the 
great generals who led our armies, but to our great statesmen 
as well who framed our laws ; and not to these only, but also 
to the noble army of men and women which preceded both 
statesmen and warriors in the cause of emancipation, and 
made these warriors and statesmen possible. Neither would 
our gratitude forget those who supplemented the great act of 
emancipation by carrying the blessings of education to the be- 
nighted South, thus preparing the liberated freedman for the 
duties of citizenship. 

I need not stop here to call the roll of any of these classes. 
The nation knows the debt it owes them, and will never for- 
get them. We have but to mention the honored name of Abra- 
ham Lincoln in the Presidential chair, of Ulysses S. Grant in 
the field, at whose bedside a grateful nation now stands mute 
in sympathy and sad expectation ; of William Lloyd Garrison 
in the columns of the Liberator, of Wendell Phillips on the 
rostrum, of Charles Suinner in the Senate, to cause a host of 
noble men and women to start up and pass in review before us. 

But I drop this brief reference to the history and person- 
nel of the anti-slavery movement, and will speak of matters 
nearer our times and equally pertinent to this occasion. Those 
who abolished slavery did their work, and did it well. They 
served their day and generation with wisdom, courage, and 
fortitude, and are an example to this and coming generations. 
They bravely upheld the principles of liberty and justice, and 
it will go well with this nation and with us if we in our time, 
and if those who are to come after us in theirs, shall adhere 
to and uphold these same principles with equal zeal, courage, 
fidelity, and fortitude. One generation cannot safely rest on 
the achievements of another, and ought not so to rest. 

Hitherto there has been little Variety in the thoughts, reso- 
lutions, and addresses presented for consideration on occa- 
sions similar to this. Each celebration has been almost a 
fac-simile of its predecessors. The speeches have been little 
more than echoes of those made before, because the condi- 
tions of their utterances have been so uniform, and all one 
way. To-day, however, conditions are changed, or appear 
to be changed. We do not stand where we stood one year 
ago. We are confronted by a new Administration. The term 


of twenty-four years of steady, unbroken, successful Repub- 
lican rule is ended. The great Eepublican party that carried 
the country safely through the late war against the rebellion, 
emancipated the slave, saved the Union, reconstructed the 
government of the Southern States, enfranchised the freed- 
men, raised the national credit, improved the currency, 
decreased the national debt, and did more for the honor, 
prosperity, and glory of the American people than was ever 
done before in the same length of time by any party in any 
country under similar circumstances, has been defeated, hu- 
miliated, and driven from place and power. 

For the first time since the chains fell from the limbs of 
the slaves of the District of Columbia ; for the first time since 
slaves were raised from chattels to men ; for the first time 
since they were clothed with the dignity of American citi- 
zenship they find themselves under the rule of a political 
party which steadily opposed their every step from bondage 
to freedom, and this fact may well enough give a peculiar 
coloring to the thoughts and feelings with which this anni- 
versary of emancipation is celebrated. 

The great question of the hour respects the true significance 
of this change in the national front. What does it portend ? 
How will it affect our relations to the people and government 
of this country ? How was this stupendous change brought 
about, and, in point of fact, it may be asked with some pro- 
priety if there has really been any serious change made in our 
condition by this change in the relations of parties ? 

To the eye of the colored man the change, or apparent 
change, in the political situation is very marked, and wears a 
very sinister aspect. He has so long been accustomed to 
think the Republican party the sheet-anchor of his liberty, 
the star of all his hopes, that he can see nought but ill in the 
ascendancy of the Democratic party. He addresses it much 
as did Hamlet his father's ghost : 

" Tell why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death, 
Have burst their cerements ; why the sepulchre. 
Wherein we saw thee quietly inuru'd, 

Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws to cast thee up again. 
What may this mean, that thou, dead corpse, 
Again in complete steel, revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon, 
Making night hideous, and we, poor fools of nature, 
So horridly to shake our disposition 
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls ?" 

It is, perhaps, too early to determine the full significance 


of the return of the Democratic party to power, or to tell just 
how that return to power came about. One thing must be 
admitted, and that is that the power and vitality of the Demo- 
cratic party have been vastly underrated. It has indulged 
in vices and crimes enough to have killed a dozen ordinary 
parties, and yet it lives. At times it has really seemed to be 
dead. Some said it had died by opposing the war for the 
Union, but it was not so. We thought the life had gone out 
of it when it took our late friend, Horace Greely, for its candi- 
date for the Presidency and adopted a Republican platform, 
but it was not so. 

It was the same old party in a new dress, and time has 
shown that it was as full of life and power as ever. The 
fact is, it was never either honestly dead or securely buried. 
Even when it slept it had one eye open, and saw better with 
that one eye than did the Republican party with its two. Our 
mistakes concerning it have been made abundantly clear by 
the late election and the dazzling splendor of the recent in- 
auguration. We thought the Democratic party dead when it 
was alive, and the Republican party alive and strong when it 
was half dead. Long continuance in power had developed 
rival ambitions, personal animosities, factional combinations 
in the Republican party that were fatal to its success and 
even endangered its life. 

One great lesson taught by Republican defeat is familiar 
to all. It is the folly of relying upon past good behavior for 
present success. Parties, like men, must act in the living 
present or fail. It is not what they have done or left undone 
in the past that turns the scale, but what they are doing, and 
mean to do now. The result shows that neither the past 
good conduct of the Republican party nor the past bad con- 
duct of the Democratic party has had much to do with the 
late election. 

Americans have too little memory for good or bad politi- 
cal conduct. The people have said in the late election, " We 
care nothing for your past ; but what is your present char- 
acter and work ?" And in rendering judgment they have 
said, " We see little ground for preferring one to the other." 

But, fellow-citizens, it is consoling to think that this change 
in the political front justly implies no real change for the 
worse in the moral convictions of the American people. On 
the great questions that divided the parties during the periods 
of war and reconstruction there has been no change what- 


ever. Upon all the great measures of justice, liberty, and 
.civilization, originated and carried through Congress by the 
Republican party, I believe the heart of the nation to be still 
safe and sound. If the measures then in controversy between 
the parties were now submitted to the American people, I 
fully believe they would sustain them one and all by an over- 
whelming vote. 

The trouble was that the Republican party in the late cam- 
paign forgot for the moment its high mission as the party of 
great moral ideas, and sought victory on grounds far below 
its ordinary level. It made national pelf more important and 
prominent than national purity. It made the body more 
important than the soul ; national prosperity more important 
than national justice. There was no square issue made up 
between the parties. One talked in favor of the tariff and 
the other did not talk against it. Both together beat the air 
and raised a dust, confused counsel, blinded the voters, and 
rendered victory a thing of chance rather than a thing of 
choice. The Republican party was not more surprised by 
defeat than the Democratic party was astonished by victory. 
Twelve hundred votes would have changed the result ; so 
that nothing for the future can be safely predicted upon the 
election either way. It does not imply that the Democratic 
party is in power to stay, or that the Republican party is out 
of power to stay, or that new parties are to arise and take 
the place of the old. 

While it was painfully evident that the Republican party, 
during the late canvass, had little or nothing to say against 
the outrages committed upon the newly enfranchised people 
of the South, it was equally plain that the Democratic party 
had nothing to say in defense of these outrages. Yet it is not 
strange, in view of the history of the two parties, that much 
alarm was felt by colored people all over the South when they 
first learned that the great Republican party was defeated and 
that the Democratic party was soon to administer the National 

Ignorant as the colored people of the South have been, and 
may still be, about other matters of national importance, they 
have always been intelligent enough as to the character and 
relations of political parties. They have never been mistaken 
as to the historical difference between the party which gave 
them liberty and the party which sought to continue their en- 
slavement. " They had known the Democratic party long and 


well and only as the party of the old master class. They 
naturally held the triumph of that party as a victory of the 
old master class. In the panic of the moment they saw in it 
a possible attempt to rehabilitate the old order of government 
in the South, in which they would be greatly oppressed if not 

In the joy and exultation of the old master class over the 
defeat of the Republican party, and over the return of the 
old Democratic party to power, they read what they thought 
their doom. Jealous of their newly gained liberty, as well 
they might be, feeling themselves in peril and left naked to 
their enemies, their fears amounted to agony. But, thanks 
to the kind assurances promptly given by the President-elect 
and by other Democrats in high places, this alarm was tran- 
sient, and has now given way in some measure to a feeling of 
confidence and security. 

How long this feeling of confidence and security will last, 
however, will depend upon the future policy of the present 
administration. The inaugural address of President Cleve- 
land was all that any friend of liberty and justice could reason- 
ably ask for the freedmen. It was a frank and manly avowal, 
w r orthy of the occasion. It accepted their citizenship as a 
fact settled beyond debate, and as a subject which ought to 
attract attention only with a view to the improvement of their 
character and their better qualification by education for the 
duties and responsibilities of citizens of the Republic. 

No better words have dropped from the east portico of the 
Capitol since the inauguration days of Abraham Lincoln and 
Gen. Grant. I believe they were sincerely spoken, but whether 
the President will be able to administer the government in the 
light of those liberal sentiments is an open question. The 
one-man power in our government is very great, but the power 
of party may be greater. The President is not the autocrat, 
but the executive of the nation. But, happily, the executive 
is yet a power, and may be able to obtain the support of the 
co-ordinate branches of the government in so plain a duty as 
protecting the rights of the colored citizens, with those of all 
other citizens of the Republic. For one, though Republican 
I am, and have been, and ever expect to be, tnough I did 
what I could to elect James G. Blaine as President of the 
United States, I am disposed to trust President Cleveland. 
By his words, as well as by his oath of office, solemnly sub- 
scribed to before uncounted thousands of American citizens, 


lie is held and firmly bound to execute the Constitution of the 
United States in the fullness of its spirit and in the complete- 
ness of its letter, and thus far he has shown no disposition to 
shrink from that duty. 

The Southern question is evidently the most difficult ques- 
tion with which President Cleveland will have to deal. Hard 
as it may be to manage his party on the civil service question, 
where he has only to deal with hungry and thirsty office- 
seekers, nineteen out of every twenty of whom he must neces- 
sarily offend by failing to find desirable places for them, he 
will find it incomparably harder to meet that party's wishes 
in dealing with the Southern question. There are several meth- 
ods of disposing of this Southern question open to him, and 
there are lions in the way, whichever method he may adopt. 

First. He may adopt a policy of total indifference. He 
may shut his eyes to the fact that in all of the Gulf States polit- 
ical rights of colored citizens are literally stamped out ; that 
the Constitution which he has solemnly sworn to support and 
enforce is under the feet of the mob ; that in those States 
there is no such thing as a fair election and an honest count. 
He may utterly refuse to interfere by word or deed for the 
enforcement of the Constitution and for the protection of the 
ballot, and let the Southern question drift whithersoever it will, 
to a port of safety or to a rock of disaster. He will probably 
be counselled to pursue the course of President Hayes, but I 
hope he will refuse to follow it. The reasons which supported 
that policy do not exist in the case of a Democratic Presi- 
dent. Mr. Hayes made a virtue of necessity. He had fair 
warning that not a dollar or a dime would be voted by a 
Democratic Congress if the army were kept in the South. 
The cry of the country was against what was called bayonet 

Secondly. The President may pursue a temporizing policy ; 
keep the word of promise to the ear and break it to the heart, 
a half-hearted, a neither hot nor cold, a good Lord and good 
devil policy. . He may try to avoid giving offence to any, and 
thus succeed in pleasing none ; a policy which no man or 
party can pursue without inviting and earning the scorn and 
contempt of all honest men and of all honest parties. 

Thirdly. He may decide to accept the Mississippi plan of 
conducting elections at the South ; encourage violence and 
crime ; elevate to office the men whose hands are reddest with 
innocent blood ; force the negroes out of Southern politics by 


the shot-gun and the bulldozer's whip ; cheat them out of the 
elective franchise ; suppress the Republican vote ; kill off their 
white Republican leaders, and keep the South solid ; and 
keep its one hundred and fifty-three electoral votes obtained 
thus by force, fraud, and red-handed violence ready to be 
cast for a Democratic candidate in 1888. This might be 
acceptable to a certain class of Democrats at the South, but 
the Democrats of the North would abhor and denounce it as 
a bloody and hell-black policy. It would hurl the party from 
power in spite of the solid South, and keep it out of power 
another four and twenty years. 

Fourthly. He may sustain a policy of absolute fidelity to 
all the requirements of the Constitution as it is, and, as John 
Adams said of the Declaration of Independence, he may 
bravely say to the South and to the nation : " Sink or swim, 
survive or perish, I am for the Constitution in all its parts ! 
I will be true to my oath, and I will, to the best of my ability, 
and to the fullest extent of my power, defend, protect, and 
maintain the rights of all citizens, without regard to race or 

There can be no doubt as to which of these methods of 
treating the Southern question is the most honest and safe 
one. There may be many wrong ways for individuals or na- 
tions to pursue, but there is but one right way, and it remains 
to be seen if this is the one the present administration will 
adopt and pursue. Left to the promptings of his own heart 
and his own view of his constitutional duties, and to his own Jj^t 
sense of the requirements of consistency, and even expedi- 
ency, I firmly believe that President Cleveland would do his 
utmost to protect and defend the constitutional rights of all " 
classes of citizens. But he is not left to himself, and may 
adopt a different policy. 

One thing seems plain, which it is well for all parties to 
know and consider. It is this : There are 7,000,000 of col- 
ored citizens now in this Republic. They stand between 
the two great parties the Republican party and the Demo- 
cratic party and whichever of these two parties shall be most 
just and true to these 7,000,000 may safely count upon a long 
lease of power in this Republic. It is not their votes alone 
that will tell. There is deep down among the people of this 
country a love of justice and fair play, and that fact will tell. 
It is now as it was in the time of war, and it will be so in all 
time. The party which takes the negro on its side will tri- 

umph. The world moves, and the conditions of success and 
failure have changed. 

Formerly, devotion to slavery was the condition upon which 
the success of the Democratic party was based. But time 
and events have swept away this abhorred condition. Lib- 
erty, not slavery, is now the autocrat of the Republic. Nei- 
ther politics nor religion can succeed in the future by pander- 
ing to the prejudices arising out of slavery. Let the great 
Democratic party realize this fact, and shape its policy in ac- 
cordance with it ; let it do justice to the negro, and it will 
certainly succeed itself in power four years hence, and long 
years after. 

On the contrary, if it forgets the nation's progress, falls 
back into its old ruts, and seeks success on the old conditions ; 
if it forgets that slavery has now become an anachronism, a 
superstition of the past, having no proper relation to the age 
and body of our times, it will be ignominiously driven from 
place and power four years hence, and no arm can, or ought 
to, save it. 

" There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, 
Taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." 

This tide is now rising at the feet of President Cleveland 
and his administration, and, as I have said, it remains to be 
seen if it will be wisely taken at the flood. Depend upon it, 
if the Democratic party does not avail itself of the colored 
man's support the Republican party certainly will. That 
party is still the colored man's party, and it will be all the 
more likely to consider the claims of the colored man, in view 
of its late defeat, and the causes by which that defeat was 
brought about. Twelve hundred more colored votes in the 
State of New York would have saved that party from defeat. 

Unless the ballot is protected better than heretofore the 
Augusta speech of the Hon. James G. Elaine, delivered after 
the election, will be the keynote of the Republican campaign 
four years hence. There is only one way to prevent the suc- 
cess of the Republican party if that issue is permitted to be 
raised. The Northern people were sound for free soil ; 
sound for free speech ; sound for the Union ; sound for re- 
construction in other days, and they will be sound for justice 
and liberty and a free ballot to the newly enfranchised citi- 
zens when that issue shall be fairly presented as a living issue 
between the two contending parties. 


The great mistake made by the leaders of the Kepublican 
party during the late canvass was the failure to recognize the 
facts now stated, and their refusal to act upon them. They 
had become tired of the old issues and wanted new ones. 
They made their appeal to the pocket of the nation, and not 
to the heart of the nation. They attended to the mint, anise, 
and cummin of politics, but omitted the weightier matters of 
the law judgment, mercy, and faith. They were loud for 
the protection of things, but silent for the protection of men. 
These things they ought to have done, and not left the other 

The idea that righteousness exalteth a nation, and that sin 
is a reproach to any people, was, for a time, lost sight of. 
The all engrossing thought of the campaign was a judicious, 
discriminating protective tariff. The great thing was protec- 
tion to the wool of Ohio ; to the iron of Pennsylvania, and 
to American manufactures generally. Little was said, thought, 
or felt about national integrity, the importance of maintain- 
ing good faith with the freedmen or the Indian, or the pro- 
tection of the constitutional rights of American citizens, ex- 
cept where such rights were in no danger. 

The great thing to be protected was American industry 
against competition with the pauper labor of Europe not 
protection of the starving labor of the South. The body of 
the nation was everything ; the soul of the nation was noth- 
ing. It did not appear from the campaign speeches that it 
was important to protect and preserve both, or that the body 
was not more dependent upon bread for life than was the 
soul dependent upon truth, justice, benevolence, and good 
faith for health and life. In the absence of these, the soul 
of the nation starves, sickens, and dies. It may not fall at 
once upon the withdrawal of these, but persistent injustice 
will, in the end, do its certain work of moral destruction. No 
nation, no party, no man can live long and flourish on false- 
hood, deceit, injustice, and broken pledges. Loyalty will perish 
where protection and good faith are denied and withheld, 
and nothing other that this should be expected, either by a 
party, a man, or by a government. On the other hand, where 
good faith is maintained, where justice is upheld, where truth 
and right prevail, the government will be like the wise man's 
house in Scripture the winds may blow, the rains may de- 
scend, the flood may come and beat upon it, but it will stand, 
because it is founded upon the solid rock of principle. I 


speak this, not only for the Kepublican party, but for all 
parties. Though I am a party man, to me parties are valu- 
able only as they subserve the ends of good government. 
When they persistently violate the fundamental rights of the 
humblest and weakest in the land I scout them, despise them, 
and leave them. 

We boast of our riches, jDOwer, and glory as a nation, and 
we have reason to do so. \~ But what is prosperity, what is 
power, what is national glory, when national honor, national 
good faith, and national protection to the rights of our citi- 
zens are denied ? Of what avail is citizenship and the elec- 
tive franchise where a whole people are deliberately aban- 
doned to anarchy by the Government under which they live, 
and told they must protect themselves from violence as best 
they may, for, practically, this is just what the American 
Government has said to the colored and white Republican 
voters of the South during the last eight years. Minister 
Lowell was accused of not protecting the rights of Irish - 
Americans in England, and our ships are just now ordered to 
Panama to look after the interests of American citizens in 
Central America. This is all right, but when and where have 
our army and navy gone to protect the rights of American 
citizens at home ? To say, " I am a Roman citizen !" could 
once arrest the bloody scourge and cause the brutal tyrant to 
turn pale. But who cares now for the citizenship of any 
American Republican, black or white, in Mississippi or South 
Carolina ? We are rich and powerful. But we should re- 
'member that the whole vast volume of human history is 
dotted all along with the wrecks of nations which have 
perished amid wealth, luxury, and splendor. What doth it 
profit a nation to gain the whole world if it shall lose its own 
soul ? Henry Clay, in 1839, made an elaborate defence of 
the right to hold property in man. Two hundred years of 
legislation has sanctioned and identified negro slaves as prop- 
erty. When warned by anti-slavery men of the dreadful con- 
sequences of perpetuating slavery, he said that that warning 
had been given fifty years before, and that it had been 
answered by fifty years of unexampled prosperity. His idea 
was that if slavery were a curse God would not allow a nation 
that upheld it to prosper. The argument was sophistical, 
but it contained a great truth after all, and time only was re- 
quired to verify it. He forgot that God reigns in eternity ; 
that space is sometimes given for repentance. He did not 


remember, as Jefferson did, that God is just, and that His jus- 
tice cannot sleep forever. 

Had Mr. Clay lived to see, as we have seen, the union of 
his beloved country rent asunder at the centre, and hostile 
armies composed of his beloved countrymen on the field of 
battle, amid dust, smoke, and fire, blowing each other to 
pieces from the cannon's mouth ; had he seen five hundred 
thousand of the youth and flower of both sections of this 
land cut down by the sword and flung down into bloody 
graves ; had he seen in the wake of this fratricidal war the 
smoldering ruins of noble towns and cities, and the nation 
staggering under a debt heavier than a mountain of gold ; 
had he seen the sullen discontent and deadly hate which sur- 
vived the war, and traced all these calamities and more, as 
he must do, to the existence of slavery, he would, in all the 
bitterness of his soul, have cursed the day when he poured 
out his eloquence in defence of that system which brought 
upon his country these accumulated horrors. 

The lesson of this national experience is in place to-day, 
and it would be well for this nation to study and learn it. 
Look abroad ! What rocks Europe to-day ? What causes 
the Emperor of all the Eussias to be uneasy on his pillow ? 
What makes Austria tremble ? Why does England start up 
frantically at midnight and search her premises ? You know, 
and I know, that these countries have aggrieved classes among 
them who have just ground of complaint against their gov- 

Now, fellow- citizens, let me speak plainly. This is an ag. 
when men go to and fro in the earth, and knowledge increasese 
oppressed peoples all over the world are protesting with earth- 
quake emphasis against all forms of injustice, some by one 
means and some by another. Examples, like certain diseases, 
are contagious. Kailroads, steam navigation, electric wires, 
newspapers, and traveling emissaries are abroad. Can you 
be quite sure that the oppressed laborers in this country, white 
and colored, will not some day make common cause and learn 
some of the dangerous modes of protest against injustice 
adopted in other countries ? I deal in no threats, for myself 
or for any of my countrymen, and am only for peaceful 
methods ; but I say to all oppressors, " Have a care how you 
goad and imbrute the colored man of the South !" He is 
weak, but not powerless. He is submissive to wrongs, but 
not insensible to his rights. He is hopeful, but not incapa- 


ble of despair. He can endure, but even to him may come 
a time when he shall think endurance has ceased to be a 
virtue. All the world is a school, and in it one lesson is just 
now being taught in letters of fire and blood, and that is, the 
utter insecurity of life and property in the presence of an ag- 
grieved class. This lesson can be learned by the ignorant as 
well as by the wise. Who can blame the negro if, when he 
is driven from the ballot-box, the jury-box, and the school- 
house, denied equal rights on railroads and steamboats, called 
out of his bed at midnight and whipped by regulators, com- 
pelled to live in rags and wretchedness, and his wages kept 
back by fraud, denied a fair trial when accused of crime, he 
shall imitate the example of other oppressed classes and in- 
/ vokes some terrible explosive power as a means of bringing 
his oppressors to their senses, and making them respect the 
claims of justice ? This would indeed be madness, but op- 
pression will make even a wise man mad. 

It should not be forgotten that the negro is not what he 
was twenty years ago. Kossuth once said that bayonets 
think. The negro is beginning to think. Years ago a book 
had as little to say to him and had as little meaning for him 
as a brick. It was then a thing of darkness and silence. 
Now it is a thing of light and speech. Education, the sheet 
anchor of safety to society where liberty and justice are se- 
cure, is a dangerous thing to society in the presence of in- 
justice and oppression. 

I pursue this thought no further. A hint to the wise ought 

to be sufficient. Let not my words be construed as a menace, 

but taken as I mean them as a warning ; not interpreted as 

inviting disaster, but considered as designed to avert dis- 


Fellow-citizens, many things calculated to make us thought- 
ful have occurred since I addressed you on an occasion like 
this, two years ago ; but nothing has occurred which ought 
to make us more thoughtful than the recent decision of the 
Supreme Court of the United States on the civil rights bill. 
That decision came upon the country like a clap of thunder 
from a clear sky. It came without warning. It was a sur- 
prise to enemies and a bitter disappointment to friends. Had 
the bench been composed of Democratic judges some such a 
decision might have come upon us without producing any 
very startling effect. But the fact was otherwise. This blow 
was dealt us in the house of our friends. The bench was 


composed of nine learned Kepublican judges, and of these 
nine honorable men only one came to our help, I mean 
Honorable Justice John M. Harlan. He stood up for the 
rights of colored citizens as those rights are defined by the 
fourteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United 

It was a magnificent spectacle, this grand representation 
of American justice standing alone, and the country will not 
soon forget it. Without meaning any disrespect to the 
Supreme Court, or reflecting upon the purity of its motives, 
I must say here, as I have said elsewhere, and shall say many 
times over if my life is spared, that that decision is the most 
striking illustration I have ever seen of how it is possible to 
keep alive the letter of the law and at the same time stab its 
spirit to death. Portia strictly construed the law of Yenice 
for mercy, and this rule of construction has the approval of 
all the ages, but the Supreme Court of the United States 
construed American law against the weak and in the interest 
of prejudice and brutality. Never before was made so clear 
the meaning of Paul's saying, " The letter killeth, but the 
spirit giveth life." 

I am glad, and I know that you are glad, that there was 
one man on that bench who had the mind and heart to be 
as true to liberty in this its day as was the old Supreme 
Court of slavery in its day. While slavery existed all pre- 
sumptions were made in its favor. The obvious intention of 
the law prevailed, but now the plain intention of the law has 
been strangled by the letter of the law. 

The fourteenth amendment of the Constitution was plainly 
intended to secure equal rights to all citizens of the United 
States, without regard to race or color, and Congress was au- 
thorized to carry out this provision by appropriate legislation. 
But by this decision of the Supreme Court the fourteenth 
amendment has been slain in the house of its friends. I 
have no doubt that that decision contributed to the defeat 
of the Eepublican party in the late election. I repeat, that 
decision may well make colored men thoughtful. 

Kentucky has done many evil things in her time, but she 
has also done many great and good things. She has re- 
cently given us a law by which equal educational advantages 
have been extended to colored children. Long ago she gave 
us James G. Birney, the first abolition candidate for the presi- 
dency of the United States ; a former slave-holder, but one 


who emancipated his slaves on his own motion ; a genuine 
gentleman of the old school, and one to be gratefully remem- 
bered by every friend of liberty in this country. She has given 
us CassiuS M. Clay, the man who fought his way to freedom 
of speech on his native soil. She has given us John G. Fee, 
the earnest and devoted educator of the freedman. Nor is this 
all. She has given us two of the largest hearts and broadest 
minds of which our country can boast ; men who had the 
courage of their convictions, and who dared, at the peril of 
what men hold most dear, to be true to their convictions. 
These strong men one dead and the oilier living are Abra- 
ham Lincoln and John M. Harlan. Abraham Lincoln is al- 
ready enshrined in the hearts of the American people, and 
Justice John M. Harlan will hold a place beside him in the 
hearts of his countrymen. 

You remember the public meeting held in Lincoln Hall, 
and the free expression of opinion upon the unsoundness of 
the decision of the Supreme Court on the civil rights bill. 
You will also remember that the ablest and boldest words 
there spoken were from the lips of Eobert G. Ingersoll, a man 
everywhere spoken against as an infidel and a blasphemer. 
Well, my friends, better be an infidel and a so-called blas- 
phemer than a hypocrite who steals the livery of the court of 
heaven to serve the devil in. 

Infidel though Mr. Ingersoll may be called, he never turned 
his back upon his colored brothers, as did the evangelical 
Christians of this city on the occasion of the late visit of Mr. 
Moody. Of all the forms of negro hate in this world, save 
me from that one which clothes itself with the name of the 
loving Jesus, who, when on earth, especially identified him- 
self with the lowest classes of suffering men, and the proof 
given of his Messiahship was that the poor had the Gospel 
preached unto them. The negro can go into the circus, the 
theatre, the cars, and can be admitted into the lectures of 
Mr. Ingersoll, but cannot go into an Evangelical Christian 

I do not forget that on the occasion of the civil rights meet- 
ing I have mentioned, one evangelical clergyman, a real man 
of God, gave to the gospel trumpet a certain sound. The 
religion of Dr. John E. Kankin, like the love of his Eedeemer, 
is not bounded by race or color, but takes in the whole hu- 
man family. No truer man than he ever ascended a Wash- 
ington pulpit. 


In conclusion let me say one word more of the soul of the 
nation and of the importance of keeping it sensitive and re- 
sponsive to the claims of truth, justice, liberty, and progress. 
In speaking of the soul of the nation I deal in no cant 
phraseology. I speak of that mysterious, invisible, im- 
palpable something which underlies the life alike of indi- 
viduals and of nations, and determines their character and 

It is the soul that makes a nation great or small, noble or 
ignoble, weak or strong. It is the soul that exalts it to hap- 
piness, or sinks it to misery. While it modifies and shapes 
all physical conditions, it is itself superior to all such condi- 
tions. It is the spiritual side of humanity. Fire cannot burn 
it, water cannot quench it. Though occult and impalpable, 
it is just as real as granite or iron. The laws of its life are 
spiritual, not carnal, and it must conform to these laws or it 
starves and dies. The outward semblance of it may survive 
for a time, just as ancient temples and old cathedrals may 
stand long after the spirit that inspired them has vanished. 
But they, too, will moulder to ruin and vanish. The life of 
the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, 
and virtuous ; for upon these conditions depend the life of 
its life. 

A few years ago a terrible and desolating fire swept over 
the proud young city of Chicago, and left her architectural 
splendors in ashes. In a^few hours her " cloud-capped towers 
and gorgeous palaces " and solemn temples crumbled to dust, 
and were scattered to the four winds of heaven, so that no 
man could find them, but there remained the invisible soul 
of a great people, full of energy, enterprise, and faith, and 
hence, out of the ashes and hollow desolation, a grander Chi- 
cago than the one destroyed arose " as if by magic." 

" What constitutes a state ? 
Not high raised battlements, or labored mound, 

Thick walls or moated gate ; 
Not cities proud, with spires and turrets crowned ; 

Not bays and broad armed ports, 
Where, laughing at the storm, rich navies ride. 

No, men ; high-minded men ! 
With power as far above dull brutes endued, 

In forest, brake, or den, 
As beasts excel cold rocks and brambles rude ; 

Men who their duties know, *. 
But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain." 

IN WASHINGTON, D. C., 1886. 

In introducing Mr. FREDERICK DOUGLASS, on the occasion 
of the Twenty-fourth Anniversary of Emancipation in the 
District of Columbia, Prof. J. M. GREGORY made the follow- 
ing remarks : 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN : For many years prior to 1861 the 
friends of freedom, seeing the prominence slavery had ac- 
quired because of its existence at the capital of the nation, 
and the evil influence which it necessarily exerted upon legis- 
lation, sought in vain by petitions and other measures for its 
abolition in the District of Columbia. It was not, however, 
till the national conscience began to be quickened by the 
reverses of our armies, and legislators to realize the dangers 
which threatened the life of the nation, that the cause could 
muster sufficient strength to gain a hearing in Congress. 

On the 16th of December, 1861, Mr. Wilson, of Massachu- 
setts, introduced into the Senate a bill providing for the im- 
mediate emancipation of slaves in the District upon the pay- 
ment to the owners of $300 for each slave. As was to be ex- 
pected the bill was antagonized by pro-slavery men in the Sen- 
ate and House. They feared that the measure proposed was 
the entering wedge for the final overthrow of their pet insti- 
tution in the South. As subsequent events proved their fears 
were not without foundation. Notwithstanding the bitter 
opposition which the bill encountered, it passed both houses 
of Congress in less than four months from its first introduc- 
tion in the Senate, and was approved by the President on 
the 16th of April, just twenty-four years ago to-day. 

The debates on this and kindred questions makes memor- 
able the second session of the Thirty-seventh Congress, and 
they are of special interest because they indicated a new de- 
parture in the line of argument pursued by Northern states- 
men. They based their arguments for emancipation, not 
upon grounds of expediency, but the great principles of right 
and justice. 

The importance of this act must not be overlooked. It 
struck the shackles from the limbs of 3,000 human beings and 
placed them in the ranks of freemen. It took away the 


shame which slavery had brought upon the National Capital. 
But this was not all. It elevated the nation in its own eyes 
and in the eyes of the civilized world, and roused a feeling of 
patriotism and pride. It called forth an expression from the 
National Legislature, and a majority of the members by 
solemn vote arrayed themselves on the side of emancipation 
and liberty, in opposition to slavery and oppression. It was 
the forerunner of the great emancipation proclamation that 
proclamation which more than all his other acts makes the 
name of Abraham Lincoln secure to all posterity. 

In our rejoicing on this occasion we should not forget to 
hold in grateful remembrance the men whose votes secured 
the passage of the bill, and especially its author, a man who 
by his works proved himself a friend of the oppressed, Hon. 
Henry Wilson, the benefactor of the District. 

When the emancipation bill became a law in 1862, there 
were 15,000 colored people in the District of Columbia, 
12,000 of whom were free and the remainder slaves. They 
maintained eight schools for the education of their children, 
and were the owners of twelve churches, which cost about 
$75,000. With the increase of population came the demand 
for more churches, so that to-day they have eighty churches 
and missions in the District. Many of the churches are very 
valuable and located on some of the principal streets and 
avenues, the new Metropolitan Church alone being valued at 

Under the old system the word " colored " appeared oppo- 
site the name of each colored person paying taxes on the 
books of the Collector of Taxes. Now, no such distinction 
is made, and thefe are no data from which the number pay- 
ing taxes among colored citizens can be definitely known. 
From information received at the tax office, I judge that there 
are about 180 persons with property assessed individually at 
$1,000, the assessed valuation of real estate in this District 
being two-thirds to actual cash valuation. It will be quite 
in keeping with "the facts to say that two of our citizens have 
acquired property valued at $100,000 each, two at $75,000, 
six at $25,000, fifteen at $20,000, twenty at $10,000, and fifty 
at $5,000, making in the aggregate at least a million of 
dollars. I am positively assured that the increase in the val- 
uation of property owned by colored men since emancipation 
is 100 per cent. This, we think, is a most creditable show- 
ing for our property interests. 


Of the 15,000 colored people in the District at the time of 
emancipation there were proportionately more skilled car- 
penters and masons than now in a population of 70,000. But 
labor has become more diversified. We are now engaged in 
pursuits in which we had no experience before the war. In 
1861 a colored lawyer was a personage unknown to the na- 
tional capital. Now half a dozen colored lawyers successfully 
practice their profession in the courts of the District. Then 
we had no physicians, regular graduates of medical schools ; 
now a dozen or more follow the practice of medicine in the 
cities of Washington and Georgetown, and are recognized as 
men of skill and ability by the profession. One of these 
physicians, with his assistant, is in charge of the Freedman's 
Hospital, one of the largest and most successful hospitals in 
the country. Government employment tends to keep out 
many from some business occupations in which the people 
in other large cities engage, but this disadvantage, if disad- 
vantage it be considered, operates no more against us than 
against other citizens. 

The greatest progress made, however, and that which is 
necessarily the first in order of time and importance, has been 
in matters of education. The schools have increased from 
8 to 174, with an average attendance of 9,000 children, giv- 
ing employment to more than 100 teachers. Twelve of the 
school-houses in which these schools are conducted are 
among the largest and most convenient school buildings in the 
District. Too much cannot be said in praise of the teachers, 
supervising principals, superintendent and trustees, for it is 
by their combined efforts largely that the schools have at- 
tained that degree of excellence for which they are known. 
Howard University and Wayland Seminary, placed on heights 
commanding beautiful views of Washington, are among the 
results of emancipation. These institutions grew out of the 
necessities of the times to meet the wants of colored youth 
for higher and professional education. It is proper that we 
should take pride in our schools and institutions of learning, 
for they are the chief instruments through which our children 
are to receive the training which will fit them to properly dis- 
charge the duties that will afterward devolve upon them as 
men and women and to elevate the race to an equality of de- 
velopment and enlightenment with other peoples. 

We often hear the question asked, " What are we to do with 
the Americanized negro?" Articles have appeared in news- 
papers, pamphlets, and magazines -giving what the author re- 


fards as a proper solution of the negro problem, so-called. But 
ask why should there be a negro problem any more than a 
problem for any other class of the American people ? We need 
not go far to seek the answer. It is found in the fact that 
in certain parts of our country the people are not willing to 
receive the negro into full fellowship and to grant him the 
civil and political rights enjoyed in common by other citi-_ 
zens. They take from him the means of elevation and then") 
reproach him with inferiority. They would rejoice to rid thej 
country of his presence by colonization, but seeing the utter 
hopelessness of the colonization scheme, they seek to inflame 
the public mind against him by constant appeals to the low 
and narrow prejudices entertained by certain classes of 
the American people. When the 300 colored citizens from 
Cleveland visited President-elect Garfield at Mentor, he said 
in reply to the address, to which he had given respectful at- 
tention, that he did not profess to be more of a friend to col- 
ored men than hundreds of others, but he was in favor of 
giving, and, so far as it was consistent with the duties of 
his office, would give them opportunity to achieve success for 
themselves. This is all we ask to-day. This is all we can 
reasonably ask. Give us fair play, equal opportunity, and 
we will work out our own destinies. 

Ten years ago, in this city, on the occasion of the unveil- 
ing of the Freedman's Monument in memory of Abraham 
Lincoln, an eminent divine, after congratulating the orator 
of the day upon his masterly portrayal of the character of 
the martyr President, turned to General Grant and said : 
" There is but one Frederick Douglass." This distinguished 
citizen, the orator who paid the eloquent tribute to the mem- 
ory of Mr. Lincoln on the occasion referred to, the Hon. 
Frederick Douglass, will now address you. 

At the conclusion of Prof. Gregory's remarks Mr. Douglass 
said : 

FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS : I appear before you again, 
and for the third time since my residence among you, to as- 
sist in the celebration of the abolition of slavery in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia. And while I highly appreciate the honor 
and the confidence implied in your call upon me to do so, 
when I consider the importance of the task it has imposed, 
I can say in all sincerity, as I have said before, that I wish 
that your choice of speaker had fallen upon one of our young 
men, quite as well qualified to serve you as myself. I want 
to see them coming to the front as I am retiring to the rear. 


Then the fact that I have several times addressed you upon 
subjects naturally suggested by the recurrence of this inter- 
esting anniversary is, of itself, somewhat embarrassing. It 
is not an easy task to speak many times on the same subject, 
before the same audience, without repeating the same views 
and sentiments. If, therefore, you find me committing this 
offence to-day, you will consider the difficulty of avoiding it, 
and also that the same views and sentiments are as pertinent 
and necessary to-day as years ago. You need not fear, how- 
ever, that I shall inflict upon you any one of my former 
orations. I am not bound by any such necessity. The field 
is broad, and the material is abundant. The phases of public 
affairs touching the colored people of the United States are 
never stationary. They change with every season, and often 
many times in the course of a single year. There is no 
standing still for anybody in this world. We are either rising 
or falling, advancing or retreating. 

Last year, at this time, we were confronted with an un- 
usual and somewhat alarming state of facts. We stood at 
the gateway of a new and strange administration. After 
wandering about during twenty-four years, seeking rest and 
finding none, often hungry and sometimes thirsty, and, though 
not feeding swine or eating husks, yet not unfrequently found 
in very low places and wasting the substance of the national 
family, our prodigal Democratic son, with one tremendous 
effort of will, returned to the White House, and was received 
with every demonstration of parental joy and gladness. Of 
course this did not take place without a murmur of complaint 
and disapproval. There was an elder brother here as else- 
where ; one who had remained at home, worked the old farm, 
kept the fences in repair ; one who had done his duty and 
made things in the old house comfortable and pleasant gen- 
erally. Indeed, but for his elder brother, the Republican 
party, the house would have been broken up, the whole fam- 
ily turned out of doors and scattered in poverty and destitu- 
tion. It was natural, therefore, when this elder brother saw 
the great doings at the White House one year ago, when he 
heard the music and saw the dancing, and learned what it was 
all about, he was not over well pleased, and thought his 
father not only soft-hearted, but a little soft-headed, and a 
trifle ungrateful, if not crazy withal. But elder brothers, you 
- know, are usually reasonable and patient, and are generally 
quite submissive to parental authority, and though he knew 


the bad character of the young truant who had now come 
home, he hoped he had reformed. How far this cheerful and 
patient hope has been justified by one year of this adminis- 
tration I will not now stop to say ; I may, however, remark, 
as a prelude to what I shall hereafter say, that as far as the 
colored people of the country are concerned, their condition 
seems no better and not much worse than under previous ad- 
ministrations. Lynch law, violence, and murder have gone 
on about the same as formerly, and without the least show of 
Federal interference or popular rebuke. The Constitution has 
been openly violated with the usual impunity, and the colored 
vote has been as completely nullified, suppressed, and scouted 
as if the fifteenth amendment formed no part of the Consti- 
tution, and as if every colored citizen of the South had been 
struck dead by lightning or blown to atoms by dynamite. 
There have also been the usual number of outrages committed 
against the civil rights of colored citizens on highways and 
by-ways, by land and by water, and the courts of the country, 
under the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, 
have shown the same disposition to punish the innocent and 
shield the guilty, as during the presidency of Mr. Arthur. 
Perhaps colored men have fared a little worse, so far as office- 
holding is concerned. In some of the Departments, I am 
sorry to say, there have been many dismissals, but, even in 
this respect, colored men have not suffered much more than 
one-armed soldiers, and other loyal white men, whose places 
were wanted by deserving Democrats. Upon the whole, 
candor compels me to admit that this twenty-fourth year of 
our freedom finds us thcuightlul, somewhat mystified by what 
is passing around us, but hopeful, strong to suffer, and yet 
strong to strive, with a moderate degree of faith that, under 
the Constitution and its amendments, we shall yet be clothed 
with dignity of freedom and American citizenship. But more 
of this in the right place. 

I take it that no apology is needed for these annual cele- 
brations, for, notwithstanding the unfriendly outlook of 
affairs, we have yet much over which to rejoice. Besides, 
such demonstrations of popular feeling in regard to large 
benefits received and progress made, are consistent with and 
creditable to human nature. They have been observed all 
along the line of by -gone ages, and are peculiar to no class, 
clime, race, or color. From the day that Moses is said to 
have smote the Bed Sea, and the Hebrews passed safely over 


from Egyptian bondage, leaving Pharaoh overwhelmed and 
struggling with that hell of waters, down to the 4th of July, 
1776, when the fathers of this Republic threw off the British 
yoke, declared their independence, and appealed to the god 
of battles, similar events to that which we now celebrate have 
been gratefully and joyfully commemorated. 

If, for any reason, I feel like apologizing to-day, it is not 
for this celebration, but for an incident connected with it, 
and by which it is greatly marred. For the first time since 
the emancipation of the slaves of the District of Columbia 
we have two celebrations in progress at the same time. This 
should not be so. By this fact we have said to the world 
that we are not sufficiently united as a people to celebrate 
our freedom together. This spectacle of division among men 
working for a common cause is not pleasing in any case, and 
is especially displeasing and shocking in this instance. 
Without attempting to show which party is to blame in this 
controversy, I have no hesitation in saying that this division 
itself is most unfortunate, disgraceful, and mortifying. It can- 
not fail, I fear, to make an unfavorable impression for us upon 
thoughtful observers. But, standing here as your mouth- 
piece to-day, I beg the disgusted public to remember that 
colored men are but men, and that the best men will some- 
times differ, and will often differ more widely and violently 
about trifles than about things of substance, where a differ- 
ence of opinion would be at least dignified. Something must, 
however, be pardoned to the spirit of liberty, especially in 
those who have but recently acquired liberty. There is al- 
ways some awkwardness in the gait of men who, for the first 
time, have on their Sunday clothes. When we have enjoyed 
the blessings of liberty longer we shall put away such child- 
ish things and shall act more wisety. We shall think more 
of a common cause and its requirements and less of obliga- 
tion to support the claims of rival individual leaders. Depend 
upon it, a repetition of this spectacle will bring our celebra- 
tions into disgrace and make them despicable. 

The thought is already gaining ground, that we have not 
heretofore received the best influence which this anniversary 
is capable of exerting ; that tinsel show, gaudy display, and 
straggling processions, which empty the alleys and dark 
places of our city into the broad daylight of our thronged 
streets and avenues, thus thrusting upon the public view a 
vastly undue proportion of the most unfortunate, unim- 


proved, and unprogressive class of the colored * people, and 
thereby inviting public disgust and contempt, and repelling 
the more thrifty and self-respecting among us, is a positive 
hurt to the whole colored population of this city. These 
annual celebrations of ours should be so arranged as to make 
a favorable impression for us upon ourselves and upon our 
fellow-citizens. They should bring into notice the very best 
elements of our colored population, and in what is said and 
done on these occasions, we should find a deeper and broader 
comprehension of our relations and duties. They should kindle 
in us higher hopes, nobler aspirations, and stimulate us to more 
earnest endeavors ; they should help us to shorten the dis- 
tance between ourselves and the more highly advanced and 
highly favored people among whom we are. If they fail to 
produce, in some measure, such results, they had better be 
discontinued. I am sure that such a lecture as I have now 
given on this point may be distasteful to a part of this 
assembly. But I can say, in all truth, that nothing short 
of a profound desire to promote the best interests of all 
concerned, has emboldened me to run the risk of such dis- 
pleasure, and I hope the motive will excuse my offence. 

And now, fellow-citizens, I turn away from this and other 
merely race considerations, to those common to all our fel- 
low citizens, yet happily those in which we, too, are included. 
I call attention to the proposed celebration of the centennial 
anniversary of our present form of government. The year 
1789 will never cease to be memorable in the history and 
progress of the American people. It was in that year of 
grace that the founders of the American Eepublic, having 
tested the strength and discovered the weakness of the old 
articles of colonial confederation, bravely decided to lay those 
articles aside as no longer adequate to successful and per- 
manent national existence, and resolved to form a new com- 
pact and adopt a new constitution, better suited, in their 
judgment, to their national character and to their governmental 
wants. In this instrument they set forth six definite and car- 
dinal objects to be attained by this new departure. These were : 
First. " To form a more perfect union." Second. " To es- 
tablish justice." Third. " To provide for the common de- 
fense." Fourth. " To insure domestic tranquillity." Fifth. 
" To promote the general welfare." And sixth. " Secure the 
blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." Per- 
haps there never was an instrument framed by men at the be- 


ginning of any national career designed to accomplish nobler 
objects than those set forth in the preamble of this constitu- 
tion. They are objects worthy of a great nation, worthy of 
those who gave to the world the immortal Declaration of In- 
dependence, in which they asserted the equal rights of man, 
and boldly declared in the face of all the divine right govern- 
ments of Europe the doctrine that governments derive their 
right to govern from the consent of the governed. 

How far these fundamental objects, solemnly set forth in 
the Constitution, have been realized by the practical opera- 
tion of the Government created under it, I will not stop just 
now to state or explain. Whether the Union has been per- 
fectly formed, whether under the yegis of the Constitution the 
sacred principle of justice has been established, whether the 
general welfare has been promoted, or whether the blessings 
of liberty have been secured, are questions to which refer- 
ence may be made in a subsequent part of this address. For 
the present I refer to this grand starting point in the nation's 
history for another purpose. I wish simply to remind you 
of the flight of time ; that we are now drawing near the close 
of the first century of our national existence, and the notice 
that should be taken of that fact. Without going into the 
general questions raised a moment ago, as to the fulfillment 
of what was promised in the Constitution, we may, in pass- 
ing, affirm what must be admitted by all, that under this 
form of government so happily described, and so faithfully 
upheld by the great lamented Abraham Lincoln, as " Gov- 
ernment of the people, by the people, and for the people," 
this nation has become rich, great, progressive, and strong. 
This fact is cheerfully acknowledged by the whole sisterhood 
of contemporaneous nations. From thirteen comparatively 
weak and sparsely populated States, skirting and hovering 
along the line of our Atlantic coast, constituting a mere string 
of isolated communities, we now have thirty-eight States 
covering our broad continent, extending from east to west, 
and from sea to sea. Under our Constitution the desert and 
solitary places have been reclaimed and made to blossom as 
the rose. From a population of seven millions, we have 
reached the enormous number of fifty millions ; and in less 
than half a century we shall have double that number. Such 
an augmentation of wealth, power, and population has no 
example in the experience of any nation in ancient or modern 
times. The mind grows dizzy in contemplation of the future 


of a country so great and so increasing in greatness, and to 
whose greatness there seems to be no limit. The question 
naturally arises, what is to be the effect of such accumulated 
wealth, such vast increase of population, such expanded do- ^ 
main, and such augmentation of national power ? Plainly 
enough either one of two very opposite conditions may arise. 
It may either blast or bless, it may lift us to heaven or sink 
us to perdition. 

If we shall become proud, selfish, imperious, oppressive, 
and rapacious ; if we shall persist in trampling on the weak 
and exalting the strong, worshipping the rich and despising 
the poor, our doom as a nation is already foreshadowed. 

That Almighty Power recognized in one form or another by 
all thoughtful men ; that Almighty Power which controls every 
atom of the earth, and governs the universe ; that Almighty 
Power which stood and measured the globe, which beheld and 
drove asunder the nations, will surely deal with us in the fu- 
ture as that Power has dealt in the past with other wicked 
nations it will bring us to dust and ashes. The rule of life 
for individuals and for nations is the same. Neither can 
escape the consequences of transgression. As they sow, so 
shall they reap. There is no salvation for either outside of 
a life of truth and justice. Contradiction to this in theory, 
for either individuals or nations, is a damning heresy ; and 
contradiction to this in practice is certain destruction. 

Large and imposing plans are just now proposed, and are 
maturing, for the appropriate celebration of this first centen- 
nial year of our national life. If these plans should be per- 
fected and executed, as they probably will be, and as they 
certainly should be, Washington will witness a demonstration 
in this line far transcending in grandeur and sublimity the 
centennial exposition in the city of Philadelphia ten years ago. 

These celebrations, like our own, have large uses. They 
serve as lofty pedestals or platforms from which the national ^ ; 
patriotism and intelligence may survey the past, and, in some 
sense, penetrate and divine the national future. 

It is also fit and proper that our young and beautiful 
city of Washington should be the theatre of such a grand 
national centennial demonstration. It is the capital of the 
nation, and is, in some sense, the shining sun of our national 
system, around which our thirty-eight States, linked and inter- 
linked in one unbroken national interest, revolve in union. 
Upon this spot no one citizen has more rights than another. 


The right to be here is vested in all alike. Distance does 
not diminish or alienate, contiguity does not increase any 
man's right on this soil. In this capital of the nation Cali- 
fornia is equal to Virginia, and, as Webster said of Bunker 
Hill, " Wherever else we may be strangers, we are all at home 

As a part of the people of this great country, we may feel 
ourselves included. We represent the class which has en- 
riched our soil with its blood, watered it with its tears, and 
defended it with its strong arms, but have hitherto been ex- 
cluded from all part in our national glory. Now, however, 
all is changed. We may look forward with pleasure to the 
promised National Centennial Exposition, and take some 
credit to ourselves for helping to make the District of Colum- 
bia a suitable place for such a display. We have at least 
done a large proportion of the most laborious and needed 
work to this end. 

The wisdom of the framers of the Constitution af the 
United States in granting to the nation, through its Congress, 
exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the District of Colum- 
bia, has in nothing been more abundantly and happily vin- 
dicated than in the abolition of slavery, and in making it the 
freest territory of this country. The benefits of this act are, 
however, not confined to the colored people. They are 
shared by all the people of this District ; not more by the 
colored than by the white people. 

Washington owes nothing to Maryland or Virginia (though 
born of those parents) in comparison to its debt to the nation. 
Through the National Government it has become the elegant 
and beautiful city that it is. It is the nation that has graded 
and paved its broad and far-reaching streets and avenues ; it 
is the nation that has fenced and beautified its numerous 
parks and reservations, and made them the joy of our child- 
ren, and the admiration of our visitors ; it is the nation that 
has adorned its ample public squares and circles with choice 
flowers, flowing fountains, and imposing statuary ; it is the 
nation that has erected enduring monuments of bronze and 
marble in honor of our statesmen, warriors, patriots, and 
heroes ; it is the nation that has built here those vast struc- 
tures, the different departments, and crowned yonder hill 
with a Capitol, one of the proudest architectural wonders of 
the world ; it is the nation that has built Washington Monu- 
ment, the pride of the city, the tallest structure that ever 


rose from the ground toward heaven at the bidding of human 
pride, patriotism, or piety, standing there in full view of all 
comers, whether approaching by land or water, with its base 
deep down in the earth, and its capstone against the sky, re- 
ceiving and reflecting every light and shadow of the passing 
hour, steady alike in sunshine and storm, defying lightning, 
whirlwind, and earthquake its grandeur and sublimity, like 
Niagara, impress us more and more the longer we hold it in 
range of vision. 

But the nation, as I have already said, has done more for 
the District of Columbia than to clothe it with material great- 
ness and splendor. It has, by the act of emancipation, im- 
parted to it a moral beauty. It has not only made it a plea- 
sure to the eye, but a joy to the heart. No material adorn- 
ment or addition has ever done or could do for this District 
what the abolition of slavery has done. The nation did a 
great and good thing fifteen years ago by giving us a local 
government, and a Shepherd that lifted the city out of its 
deep mud and above its blinding dust and put it on the way 
to its present greatness, but it did a greater and better thing 
when it lifted it out of the mire of barbarism coincident with 

Fellow-citizens, we are proud to-day, and justly proud, of 
the prosperity and the increasing liberality of Washington. 
With all our fellow-citizens we behold it with pride and plea- 
sure rising and spreading noiselessly around us, almost like 
the temple of Solomon, without the sound of a hammer. 
New faces meet us at the corners of the streets and greet us 
in the market-places. Conveniences and improvements are 
multiplying on every hand. We walk in the shade of its 
beautiful trees by day and in the rays of its soft electric 
lights by night. We make it warm where it is cool, and 
cool where it is warm, and healthy where it is noxious. Our 
magnificence fills the stranger and sojourner with admiration 
and wonder. The contrast between the old time of slavery 
and the new dispensation of liberty looms upon us on every 
hand. We feel it in the very air we breathe, and in the 
friendly aspect of all around us. But time would fail to tell 
of the vast and wonderful advancement in civilization made 
in this city by the abolition of slavery. 

Perhaps a better idea could be formed of what has been 
done for Washington and for us by'imagining what would be 
the case in a return to the old condition of things. Imagine 


the wheels of progress reversed ; imagine that by some 
strange and mysterious freak of fortune slavery, with all 
its horrid concomitants, was revived ; imagine that under 
the dome of yonder Capitol legislation was carried on, as 
formerly, by men with pistols in their belts and bullets 
in their pockets ; imagine the right of speech denied, the 
right of petition stamped out, the press of the District 
muzzled, and a word in the streets against slavery the 
sign for a mob ; imagine a lone woman like Miss Myrtilla 
Miner, having to defend her right to teach colored girls to 
read and write with a pistol in her hand, here in this 
very city, now dotted all over with colored schools, which 
rival in magnificence the white schools of any other city of 
the Union ; imagine this, and more, and ask yourselves the 
question ^"What progress has been made in liberty and civi- 
lization within the borders of this capital ? Further on let 
us ask : Of what avail would be our cloud-capped towers, our 
gorgeous palaces, and our solemn temples if slavery again 
held sway here ? Of what avail would be our marble halls 
if once more they resounded with the crack of the slave whip, 
the clank of the fetter, and the rattle of chains ; if slave auc- 
tions were held in front of the halls of justice, and chain- 
gangs were marched over Pennsylvania avenue to the Long 
Bridge for the New Orleans market ? Of what avail would 
be our state dinners, our splendid receptions if, like Baby- 
lon of old, our people were making merchandise of God's 
image, trafficking in human blood and in the souls and bodies 
of men ? Were this District once more covered with this 
moral blight and mildew you would hear of no plans, as now, 
for celebrating within its borders the centennial anniversary 
of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. 
Bold and audacious as were the advocates of slavery in the 
olden time they would have been ashamed to invite here the 
representatives of the civilized world to inspect the workings 
of their slave system. To have done so would have been 
like inviting a clean man to touch pitch, a humane man to 
witness an execution, a tender-hearted woman to witness a 
slaughter. In its boldest days slavery drew in its claws and 
presented a velvet paw to strangers. They knew it was like 
Lord Granby's character, which could only pass without 
reprobation as it passed withoiit observation. Emancipation 
liberated the master as well as the slave. The fact that our 
citizens are now loudly proclaiming Washington to be the 


right place for the celebration of the discovery of the conti- 
nent by Columbus, and the adoption of the Constitution of 
the United States, is an acknowledgement of and attestation of 
the higher civilization that has, in their judgment, come here 
with the abolition of slavery. They no longer dread the 
gaze of civilized men. They no longer fear lest a word of 
liberty should fall into the ear of a trembling captive and 
awaken his manhood. They are no longer required to de- 
fend with their lips what they must have condemned in their 
hearts. When the galling chain dropped from the limbs of 
the slave the mantle of shame dropped from the brows of 
their masters. The emancipation of the one was the de- 
liverance of the other ; so that this day, in fact, belongs to 
the one as truly as it belongs to the other, though it is left to 
us alone to keep it in memory. 

It is usual on occasions of this kind, not only to set forth,, 
as I have in some measure done, what has been gained by 
the abolition of slavery, but also to speak of the caused 
and instrumentalities which contributed to this grand result. 
If this were my first appearance before you on similar an- 
niversaries, I should feel it entirely proper to do so now ; 
but having discharged this duty faithfully and fully in 
several former addresses, there is no special reason for a 
repetition of it in this instance. In one of those addresses 
I specially endeavored to trace, and did trace with more or 
less success, the history of the earliest utterances of anti- 
slavery sentiments in this country and in England. I de- 
scribed the rise, progress, and final triumph of the abolition 
movement in both countries. I have in no case omitted to do 
justice to the noble band of men and women who espoused the 
cause of the slave in the early days of its weakness, and 
when to do so was to make themselves of no reputation and 
subjects of the vilest abuse. I have held up their example 
of virtuous self-sacrifice to the admiration and imitation of 
all who would serve the human family in its march from 
barbarism to a higher state of civilization. In my judgment 
there never was a band of reformers more unselfish, more 
consistent with their principles, more ardent in their devo- 
tion to any cause than were these early anti-slavery men 
and women of this country. 

The charge is sometimes made that the colored people are 
ungrateful to their benefactors. In my judgment no charge 
could be more unjust. In whatever else they have failed, 


they have ever shown a laudable sense of gratitude. The 
names of William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, John 
P. Hale, Charles Sumner, Gerrit Smith, Abraham Lincoln, 
Ulysses S. Grant, and a host of others are never pronounced 
by us but with sentiments of high appreciation and sincere 

Of course I cannot deny that there are those amongst us 
who, either thoughtlessly or selfishly, or both, dare to deny 
their obligations to the great Eepublican party and its lead- 
ers. They insist upon it that freedom came to them only as 
an act of military necessity. They see in it no sentiment of 
justice, no moral preference. They profess to see no differ- 
ence between the Eepublican party and the Democratic party, 
and insist that one party has no more claim to their support 
than the other. Such men are about as ready to join one 
party as the other. Perhaps they even lean a little more to 
the Democratic than to the Kepublican party. I admit that 
were they fair representatives of the colored people of the 
United States the charge of ingratitude might be very easily 
sustained. But, happily, such men do not represent the sen- 
timents of the colored people, but greatly and flagrantly mis- 
represent them. The colored people do see a difference be- 
tween the two parties, as broad as the moral universe and as 
palpable as the difference between the character of Moses 
and that of Pharaohf^ For one I never will forget that every 
concession of liberty made to the colored people of the 
United States has come to them through the action of the 
Eepublican party, ^and that all the opposition made to those 
concessions has come from the Democratic party. Any col- 
ored man who either denies this or endeavors to disparage that 
party and belittle their concessions by attributing them en- 
tirely to selfish and cowardly motives brands himself as un- 
just, uncharitable, and ungrateful. The blindness of such 
men is very surprising. Do they not see that in denying their 
j obligations to the Eepublican party they only invite the 
scorn and contempt of the Democratic party ? Do they not 
understand that they are advertising themselves as base po- 
litical ingrates ? Do they not know that they are giving no- 
tice to the Democratic party the party that they are just 
now aiming to conciliate that they will be as unjust and un- 
grateful to that party for any concessions from it as they de- 
clare themselves to be to the Eepublican party for what that 
party has done ? 


.But, fellow-citizens, while I gratefully remember the im- 
portant services of the Republican party in emancipating and 
enfranchising the colored people of the United States, I do 
not forget that the work of that party is most sadly incom- 
plete. We are yet, as a people, only half free. The promise 
of liberty remains unfulfilled. We stand to-day only in the 
twilight of American liberty. The sunbeams of perfect day 
are still behind the mountains, and the mission of the Re- 
publican party will not be ended until the persons, the prop- 
erty, and the ballot of the colored man shall be as well pro- 
tected in every State of the American Union as are such 
rights in the case of the white man. The Republican party 
is not perfect. It is cautious even to the point of timidity ; 
but it is, nevertheless, the best political force and friend we ^ 

And now I return to the point at which I commenced these 
remarks. I have spoken to you of the adoption of the Con- 
stitution of the United States and of the national progress 
and prosperity under that instrument ; I have called your 
attention to the noble objects announced in the preamble of 
the Constitution. I did not stop then and there to inquire 
how far those objects, so solemnly proclaimed to the world, 
and so often sworn to, have been attained, or to point out 
how far they have been practically disregarded and aban- 
doned by the Government ordained to practically carry them 
out. I now undertake to say that neither the Constitution"' 
of 1789, nor the Constitution as amended since the war, is 
the law of the land. That Constitution has been slain in the 
house of its friends. So far as the colored people of the 
country are concerned, the Constitution is but a stupendous 
sham, a rope of sand, a Dead Sea apple, fair without and foul 
within, keeping the promise to the eye and breaking it to the 
heart. The Federal Government, so far as we are concerned, 
has abdicated its functions and abandoned the objects for 
which the Constitution was framed and adopted, and for this I 
arraign it at the bar of public opinion, both of our own coun- 
try and that of the civilized world. I am here to tell the truth, 
and to tell it without fear or favor, and the truth is that neither 
the Republican party nor the Democratic party has yet com- 
plied with the solemn oath, taken by their respective represent- 
atives, to support the Constitution, and execute the laws en-^ 
acted under its provisions. They have promised us law, and 
abandoned us to anarchy ; they have promised protection, and 


given us violence ; they have promised us fish, and given us 
a serpent. A vital and fundamental object which they have 
sworn to realize to the best of their ability, is the establish- 
ment of justice. This is one of the six fundamental objects 
for which the Constitution was ordained ; but when, where, 
and how has any attempt been made by the Federal Govern- 
ment to enforce or establish justice in any one of the late 
slave-holding States ? Has any one of our Republican 
Presidents, since Grant, earnestly endeavored to establish 
justice in the South ? According to the highest legal author- 
ities, justice is the perpetual disposition to secure to every 
man, by due process of law, protection to his person, his 
property and his political rights. " Due process of law " has 
a definite and legal meaning. It means the right to be tried 
in open court by a jury of one's peers, and before an impar- 
tial judge. It means that the accused shall be brought face 
to face with his accusers ; that he shall be allowed to call 
witnesses in his defence, and that he shall have the assistance 
of counsel ; it means that, preceding his trial, he shall be 
safe in the custody of the Government, and that no harm 
shall come to him for any alleged offence till he is fairly tried, 
convicted, and sentenced by the court. This protection is 
given to the vilest white criminal in the land. He cannot be 
convicted while there is even a reasonable doubt in the 
minds of the jury as to his guilt. But to the colored man 
accused of crime in the Southern States, a different rule is 
almost everywhere applied. With him, to be accused is to 
be convicted. . The court in which he is tried is a lynching 
mob. This rnob takes the place of " due process of law," 
of judge, jury, witness, and counsel. It does not come to 
ascertain the guilt or innocence of the accused, but to hang, 
shoot, stab, burn, or whip him to death. Neither courts, 
jails, nor marshals are allowed to protect him. Every day 
brings us tidings of these outrages. I will not stop to detail 
individual instances. Their name is legion. Everybody 
knows that what I say is true, and that no power is employed 
by the Government to prevent this lawless violence. Yet our 
chief magistrates and other officers, Democratic and Eepub- 
f lican, continue to go through the solemn mockery, the empty 
4, w- I form of swearing by the name of Almighty God that they 
I will execute the laws and the Constitution ; that they will 
^establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the 
blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity. 


Only a few weeks ago, at Carrolton Court-house, Missis- 
sippi, in the absence of all political excitement, while the 
Government of the nation, as well as the government of the 
Southern States, was safely in the hands of the Democratic 
party ; when there was 110 pending election, and no pretence 
of a fear of possible negro supremacy, one hundred white 
citizens, on horseback, armed to the teeth, deliberately as- 
sembled and in cold blood opened a deadly fire upon a party 
of peaceable, unarmed colored men, killing eleven of them on 
the spot, and mortally wounding nine others, most of whojaa^ 
have since died. The sad thing is that, in the average Ameri- 
can mind, horrors of this character have become so frequent 
since the slave-holding rebellion that they excite neither shame / > 
nor surprise ; neither pity for the slain, nor indignation for 
the slayers. It is the old story verified : 

' Vice is a monster of such frightful mien 
That, to be hated, needs but to be seen ; 
But seen too oft, familiar with its face, 
We first endure, then pity, then embrace." 

It is said that those who live on the banks of Niagara 
neither hear its thunder nor shudder at its overwhelming 
power. In any other country such a frightful crime as the 
Carrolton massacre in any other country than this a scream 
would have gone up from all quarters of the land for the ar- 
rest and punishment of these cold-blooded murderers. But 
alas ! nothing like this has happened here. We are used to 
the shedding of innocent blood, and the heart of this nation 
is torpid, if not dead, to the natural claims of justice and hu- 
manity where the victims are of the colored race. Where are 
the sworn ministers of the law ? Where are the guardians of 
public justice ? 

Where are the defenders of the Constitution ? What hand 
in House or Senate ; what voice in court or Cabinet is 
uplifted to stay this tide of violence, blood, and barbarism ? 
Neither governors, presidents, nor statesmen have yet declared 
that these barbarities shall be stopped. On the contrary, 
they all confess themselves powerless to protect our class ; 
and thus you and I and all of us are struck down, and bloody 
treason flourishes over us. In view of this confessed im- 
potency of the Government and this apparent insensibility 
of the nation to the claims of humanity, do you ask me why 
I expend my time and breath in denouncing these wholesale 
murders when there is no seeming prospect of a favorable re- 


sponse ? I answer in turn, how can you, how can any man 
with a heart in his breast do otherwise when, louder than the 
blood of Abel, the blood of his fellow-men cries from the 
ground ? 

' ' Shall tongues be mute when deeds are wrought 
Which well might shame extremest hell ? 

Shall freeman lock the indignant thought ? 
Shall mercy's bosom cease to swell ? 

Shall honor bleed, shall truth succumb, 

Shall pen, and press, and soul be dumb? 

By all around, above, below, 

Be ours the indignant answer, No !" 

In a former address, delivered on the occasion of this anni- 
versary, I was at the pains of showing that much of the crime 
attributed to colored people, and for which they were held 
responsible, imprisoned, and murdered, was, in fact, com- 
mitted by white men disguised as negroes. I affirm that all 
presumptions in courts of law and in the community were 
against the negro, and that color was the safest disguise a 
white man could assume in which to commit crime ; that all 
he had to do to commit the worst crimes with impunity was 
to blacken his face and take on the similitude of a negro, but 
even this disguise sometimes fails. Only a few days ago a 
Mr. J. H. Justice, an eminent citizen of Granger county, 
Tenn., attempted under this disguise to commit a cunningly 
devised robbery and have his offence fixed upon a negro. All 
worked well till a bullet brought him to the ground and a lit- 
tle soap and water was applied to his face, when he was found 
to be no negro at all, but a very respectable white citizen. 

Dark, desperate, and forlorn as I have described the situa- 
tion, the reality exceeds the description. In most of the 
Gulf States, and in some parts of the border States, I have 
sometimes thought that we should be about as well situated 
for the purposes of justice if there were no Constitution of 
the United States at all ; as well off if there were no law or 
law-makers, no constables, no jails, no courts of justice, and 
we were left entirely without the pretence of legal protection, 
for we are now at the mercy of midnight raiders, assassins, 
and murderers, and we should only be in the same condition if 
these pretended safeguards were abandoned. They now only 
mock us. Other men are presumed to be innocent until they 
are proved guilty. We are presumed to be guilty until we 
are proved to be innocent. 

The charge is often made that negroes are by nature the 


criminal class of America ; that they furnish a larger pro- 
portion of petty thieves than any other class. I admit the 
charge, but deny that nature, race, or color has anything to 
do with the fact. Any other race with the same antecedents 
and the same condition would show a similar thieving pro- 

The American people have this lesson to learn : That 
where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where 
ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel 
that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and 
degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. I 
deny that nature has made the negro a thief or a burglar. 
Look at these black criminals, as they are brought into your 
police courts ; view and study their faces, their forms, and 
their features, as I have done for years as Marshal of this 
District, and you will see that their antecedents are written 
all over them. Two hundred and fifty years of grinding 
slavery has done its work upon them. They stand before 
you to-day physically and mentally maimed and mutilated 
men. Many of their mothers and grandmothers were lashed 
to agony before their birth by cruel overseers, and the chil- 
dren have inherited in their faces the anguish and resent- 
ment felt by their parents. Many of these poor creatures 
have not been free long enough to outgrow the marks of the 
lash on their backs, and the deeper marks on their souls. 
No, no ! It is not nature that has erred in making the negro. 
That shame rests with slavery. It has twisted his limbs, de- 
formed his body, flattened his feet, and distorted his features, 
and made him, though black, no longer comely. In infancy 
he slept on the cold clay floor of his cabin, with quick cir- 
culation on one side, and tardy circulation on the other. So 
that he has grown up unequal, unsyinmetrical, and is no 
longer a vertical, well-rounded man, in body or in mind. 
Time, education, and training will restore him to natural 
proportions, for, though bruised and blasted, he is yet a man. 

The school of the negro since leaving slavery has not been 
much of an improvement on his former condition. Individ- 
uals of the race have here and there enjoyed large benefits 
from emancipation, and the result is seen in their conduct, 
but the mass have had their liberty coupled with hardships 
which tend strongly to keep them a dwarfed and miserable 
class. A man who labors ten hours a day with pickaxe, crow- 
bar, and shovel, and has a family to support and house rent 


to pay, and receives for his work but a dollar a day, and what 
is worse still, he is deprived of labor a large part of his time 
by reason of sickness and the weather, in his poverty, easily 
falls before the temptation to steal and rob. Hungry men 
will eat. Desperate men will commit crime. Outraged men 
will seek revenge. It is said to be hard for a rich man to 
enter the kingdom of heaven. I have sometimes thought .it 
harder still for a poor man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Man is so constituted that if he cannot get a living honestly, 
he will get it dishonestly. " Skin for skin," as the devil said 
of Job. " All that a man hath will he give for his life." Op- 
pression makes even wise men mad and reckless ; for illus- 
tration I pray look at East St. Louis. 

In the Southern States to-day a landlord system is in oper- 
ation which keeps the negroes of that section in rags and 
wretchedness, almost to the point of starvation. As a rule, 
this system puts it out of the power of the negro to own land. 
There is, to be sure, no law forbidding the selling of land to 
the colored people, but there is an understanding which has 
the full effect of law. That understanding is that the land 
must be kept in the hands of the old master class. The 
colored people can rent land, it is true, and many of them 
do rent many acres, and find themselves poorer at the end 
of the year than at the beginning, because they are charged 
more a year for rent per acre than the land would bring at 
auction sale. The landlord and tenant system of Ireland, 
which has conducted that country to the jaws of ruin, bad as 
it is, is not worse than that which prevails at this hour at 
the South, and yet the colored people of the South are con- 
stantly reproached for their poverty. They are asked to 
make bricks without straw. Their hands are tied, and they 
are asked to work. They are forced to be poor, and laughed 
at for their destitution. 

I am speaking mainly to colored men to-night, but I want 
my words to find their way to the eyes, ears, heads and hearts 
of my white fellow-countrymen, hoping that some among them 
may be made to think, some hearts among them will be made to 
feel, and some of their number will be made to act. I appeal 
to our white fellow-countrymen. The power to protect is in 
their hands. This is and must be practically the white man's 
government. He has the numbers and the intelligence to 
control and direct. To him belongs the responsibility of its 
honor or dishonor, its glory or its shame, its salvation or its 


ruin. If they can protect the rights of white men they can 
protect the rights of black men ; if they can defend the 
rights of American citizens abroad they can defend them at 
home ; if they can use the army to protect the rights of Chi- 
namen, they can use the army to protect the rights of colored 
men. The only trouble is the will ! the will ! the will ! Here, 
as elsewhere, " Where there is a will there is a way.'V 

I have now said not all that could be said but enough to 
indicate the relations at present existing between the white 
and colored people of this country, especially the relations 
subsisting between the two classes of the late slaveholding 
States. Time would fail me to trace this relation in all its 
ramifications ; but that labor is neither required by this au- 
dience nor by the country. The condition of the emancipa- 
ted class is known alike to ourselves and to the Government, 
to pulpit and press, and to both of the great political parties. 
These have only to do their duty and all will be well. 

One use of this annual celebration is to keep the subject 
of our grievances before the people and government, and to\ 
urge both to do their respective parts in the happy solution 
of the race problem. The weapons of our warfare for equal 
rights are not carnal but simple truth, addressed to the hearts 
and sense of justice of the American people. If this fails 
we are lost. We have no armies or generals, no swords or 
cannons to enforce our claims, and do not want any. 

We are often asked with an air of reproach by white men 
at the North : " Why don't your people fight their way to the 
ballot-box?" The question adds insult to injury. Whom 
are we called upon to fight ? They are the men who held this 
nation, with all its tremendous resources of men and money, 
at bay during four long and bloody years. Whom are we 
to fight ? I answer, not a few midnight assassins, not the 
rabble mob, but trained armies, skilled generals of the Con- 
federate army, and in the last resort we should have to meet 
the Federal army. Though that army cannot now be em- 
ployed to defend the weak against the strong, means would 
certainly be found for its employment to protect the strong 
against the weak. In such a case insurrection would be mad- 

But there is another remedy proposed. These people are 
advised to make an exodus to the Pacific slope. With the 
best intentions they are told of the fertility of the soil and 
salubrity of the climate. If they should tell the same as ex- 


isting in the moon, the simple question, How shall they get 
there ? would knock the life out of it at once. Without 
money, without friends, without knowledge, and only gaining 
enough by daily toil to keep them above the starvation point, 
where they are, how can such a people rise and cross the con- 
tinent ? The measure on its face is no remedy at all. Besides, 
who does not know that should these people ever attempt such 
an exodus, that they would be met with shot-guns at every 
cross-road. Who does not know that the white land- 
holders of the South would never consent to let that labor 
which alone gives value to ther land march off without oppo- 
sition ? Who does not know that if the Federal Govern- 
ment is powerless to protect these people in staying that it 
would be equally powerless to protect them in going en 
masse f For one, I say away with such contrivances, such 
lame and impotent substitutes for the justice and protection 
due us. The first duty that the National Government owes 
to its citizens is protection. 

While, however, I hold now, as I held years ago, that the 
South is the natural home of the colored race, and that there 
must the destiny of that race be mainly worked out, I still 
believe that means can be and ought to be adopted to assist 
in the emigration of such of their number as may wish to 
change their residence to parts of the country where their 
civil and political rights are better protected than at present 
they can be at the South. 

I adopt the suggestion of the National JZeptfMican, of this 
city, that diffusion is the true policy for the colored people of 
the South. All, of course, cannot leave that section, and 
ought not ; but some can, and the condition of those who 
must remain will be better because of those who go. Men, 
like trees, may be too thickly planted to thrive. If the labor 
market of Mississippi were to-day not over-loaded and over 
supplied, the laborers would be more fully appreciated ; but 
this work of diffusion and distribution cannot be carried on 
by the emancipated class alone. They need, and ought to 
have, the material aid of both white and colored people of 
the free states. A million of dollars devoted to this purpose 
would do more for the colored people of the South than the 
same amount expended in any other way. There is no deg- 
radation, no loss of self-respect, in asking this aid, consider- 
ing the circumstances of these people. The white people of 
this nation owe them this help and a great deal more. The 


keynote of the future should not be concentration, but dif- 
fusion distribution. This may not be a remedy for all evils 
now uncured, but it certainly will be a help in the right direc- 

A word now in respect of another remedy for the black 
man's ills. It calls itself independent political action. This 
has, during the past few years, been advocated with much 
zeal and spirit by several of our leading colored men, and 
also with much ability, though I am happy to say not with 
much success. First, their plan, if I understand it, is to 
separate the colored people of the country from the Repub- 
lican party. This, with them, is the primary and essential 
condition of making the colored vote independent. Hence 
all their artillery is directed to making that party odious in 
the eyes of the colored voters. Colored men who adhere to 
the Republican party are vilified as slaves, office-seekers, ser- 
viles, " knuckle-close " Republicans, as tools of white men, 
traitors to their race, and much more of the same sort. Per- 
haps no one has been a more prominent target for such de- 
nunciation than your humble speaker. 

Now, the position to which these gentlemen invite us is one 
of neutrality between the two great political parties, and 
to vote with either, or against either, according to the pre- 
vailing motive when the time for action shall arrive. In the 
interval we are to have no standing with either party, and 
have no active influence in shaping the policy of either, but 
we are to stand alone, and hold ourselves ready to serve 
one or to serve the other, or both, as we may incline at the 

With all respect to these political doctors, I must say that 
their remedy is no remedy at all. No man can serve two 
masters in politics any more than in religion. If there is 
one position in life more despicable in the eyes of man, and 
more condemned by nature than another, it is that of neu- 
trality. Besides, if there is one thing more impossible than 
another, it is a position of perfect neutrality in politics. Our 
friends, Fortune, Downing, and others, flatter themselves 
that they have reached this perfection, but they are utterly 
mistaken. No man can read their utterances without seeing 
their animus of hate to the Republican party, and their pref- 
erence for the Democratic party. The fault is not so much 
in their intention, as in their position. They can neither 
act with nor against the two parties impartially. They are 


compelled by their position to either serve the one and 
oppose the other, and they cannot serve or oppose both alike. 
Independence, like neutrality, is also impossible. If the 
colored man does not depend upon the Republican party, he 
will depend upon the Democratic party, and if he does 
neither, he becomes a nonentity in American politics. But 
these gentlemen do, in effect, ask us to break down the power 
of the Republican party, when to do it is to put the Govern- 
ment in the hands of the Democratic party. Colored men 
are already in the Republican party, aud to come out of it is 
to defeat it. 

For one, I must say that the Democratic party has as yet 
given me no sufficient reasons for doing it any such service, 
nor has the Republican party sunk so low that I must aban- 
don it for its great rival. With all its faults it is the best 
party now in existence. In it are the best elements of the 
American people, and if any good is to come to us politically 
it will be through that party. 

I must cease to remember a great many things and must 
forget a great many things before I can counsel any man, 
colored or white, to join the Democratic party, or to occupy 
a position of neutrality between that party and the Republi- 
can party. Such a position of the colored people of this 
country will prove about as comfortable as between the upper 
and nether millstone. Those of our number now posing as 
Independents are doing better service to the Democratic 
party under the Independent mask than they could do if they 
came out honestly for the Democratic party. 

I am charged with commending the inaugural address of 
President Cleveland. I am not ashamed of that charge. I 
said at the time that no better words for the colored citizen 
had dropped from the east portico of the Capitol since the 
days of Lincoln and Grant, and I say so still. I did not say, 
as my traducer lyingly asserts, that Mr. Cleveland said better 
words than Lincoln or Grant. But it would not have suited 
the man who left Washington with malice in his heart and false- 
hood in his throat to be more truthful in Petersburg than in 
Washington. This malcontent accuser seeks to make the im- 
pression that those who thought and spoke well of the inaugural 
address did so from selfish motives, and from a desire to get or 
retain office. " Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth 
speaketh." "With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be 
judged, and with what measure ye mete, the same shall be 


measured to you again." He ought to remember/however, that 
a serpent without a fang, a scorpion without a sting, has no 
more ability to poison than a lie which has lost its ability to 
deceive has to injure. It so happens that we had two Pres- 
idents and one Vice-President prior to President Cleveland, 
and I challenge my ambitious and envious accuser to find any 
better word for the colored citizens of this country in the inaug- 
ural addresses of either than is found in the inaugural address 
of President Cleveland. I also beg my accuser to remember 
that I gave no pledge that Mr. Cleveland would be able to 
live up to the sentiments of that address, but, on the contrary, 
I doubted even the probability of his success in doing so. I 
gave him credit, however, for an honest purpose, and expressed 
a hope that he might be able to do as well and better than he 
promised. But I saw him in the rapids and predicted that 
they would be too strong for him. Did this look like seeking 
favor ? He did a brave thing in removing from office an 
abettor of murder in Mississippi. He has expressed in a 
private way, to Messrs. Bruce and Lynch, his reprobation 
of the recent massacres at Carrollton, and for this we thank 
him. But he has done nothing in his position as Commander- 
in-chief of the army and navy to put a stop to such horrors. 
I am quite sure that he abhors violence and bloodshed. 
He has shown this in his publicly spoken words in behalf 
of persecuted and murdered Chinamen ; he should do the 
same for the persecuted and murdered black citizens of 
Mississippi. He could threaten the law-breakers and mur- 
derers of the West with the sword of the nation, why not the 
South ? If it was right to protect and defend the Chinese, 
why not the negro ? If in the days of slavery the army 
could be used to hunt slaves, and suppress slave insurrec- 
tions, why, in the days of liberty, may it not be used to 
enforce rights guaranteed by the Constitution ? Alas ! fellow- s 
citizens, there is no right so neglected as the negro's right. 
There is no flesh so despised as the negro's flesh. There 
is no blood so cheap as the negro's blood. I have been 
saying these things to the American people for nearly fifty 
years. In the order of nature I cannot say them much 
longer ; but, as was said by another, " though time himself 
should confront me, and shake his hoary locks at my persist- 
ence, I shall not cease while life is left me, and our wrongs 
are unredressed, to thus cry aloud and spare not." 

Fellow-citizens, I am disappointed. The accession of the 



Democratic party to power has not been followed by the 
results I expected. When the tiger has quenched his thirst 
in blood, and when the anaconda has swallowed his prey, 
they cease to pursue their trembling game and sink to rest ; 
so I thought when the Democratic party came into power, 
when the solid South gave law to the land, when there could 
no longer be any pretence for the fear of negro ascend- 
ency in the councils of the nation, persecution, violence, 
and murder would cease, and the negro would be left in 
peace ; but the bloody scenes at Carrollton, and the daily re- 
ports of lynch law in the South, have destroyed this cher- 
ished hope and told me that the end of our sufferings is not 

But, fellow-citizens, I do not despair, and no power that I 
know of can make me despair of the ultimate triumph of jus- 
tice and liberty in this country A I have seen too many abuses 
outgrown, too many evils removed, too many moral and physi- 
cal improvements made, to doubt that the wheels of progress 
will still roll on. We have but to toil and trust, throw away 
whiskey and tobacco, improve the opportunities that we have, 
put away all extravagance, learn to live within our means, lay 
up our earnings, educate our children, live industrious and 
virtuous lives, establish a character for sobriety, punctuality, 
and general uprightness, and we shall raise up powerful friends 
who shall stand by us in our struggle for an equal chance in 
the race of life. The white people of this country are asleep, 
but not dead. In other days we had a potent voice in the 
Senate which awoke the nation. 

Ireland now has an advocate in the British Senate who has 
arrested the eye and ear of the civilized world in champion- 
ing the cause of Ireland. There is to-day in the American 
Senate an opportunity for an American Gladstone ; one whose 
voice shall have power to awake this nation to the stupendous 
wrongs inflicted upon our newly-made citizens and move the 
Government to a vindication of our constitutional rights. We 
have in other days had a Sumner, a Wilson, a Chase, a Conk- 
ling, a Thaddeus Stevens, and a Morton. These did not ex- 
haust the justice and humanity of American statesmanship. 
There is heart and eloquence still left in the councils of the 
nation, and these will, I trust, yet make themselves potent in 
having both the Constitution of 1789 and the Constitution 
with the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments made practi- 
cally the law of the land for all the people thereof.